// Kurt Geiger CEO Neil Clifford argues against end of tax-free shopping
// Clifford says Kurt Geiger will cut 25% of its workforce in early 2021
// Calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to instead extend tax-free shopping scheme for EU customers
Kurt Geiger chief executive tells Rishi Sunak the loss of tax-free shopping would be a “staggering own goal” for the nation, according to a letter sent to the chancellor and cited by Drapers.
The up-market shoe and accessory brand’s chief executive Neil Clifford has spoken out against the proposed end of the VAT Retail Export Scheme (RES) on December 31.
“The damage will be significantly wider than the Treasury envisages, our luxury goods manufacturing based will be badly wounded and all global brands will halt any investment in the UK due to dramatic drop in demand,” Clifford argued.
In a letter sent to the chancellor on October 8 and seen by Drapers, Clifford explained that Kurt Geiger is planning another 500 job losses in early 2021, equating to over 25 per cent of its workforce.
“While stores have now reopened and were slowly recovering, the second wave of Covid-19 is sadly here, and this combined with the new understandable lockdown measures being introduced, means it is becoming ever-clearer that British business is going to be living with the consequences of the pandemic for not months but for years to come,” Clifford’s letter warned.
Speaking on the end of tax-free shopping, Clifford described the decisions as “a staggering own goal which completely undermines the government’s stated aim to build a ‘global Britain’ post-Brexit”.
The chief executive pointed out that tourist spending from China, the US and the Middle East support far more than the retailers they patronage:
“Visitors to the UK don’t just spend in retail stores – their custom supports hotels, restaurants, and theatres, which experts tell us is worth at least £22 billion a year to the UK’s wider economy. But if we suddenly start charging 20 per cent more than other countries for the same goods, international visitors will immediately go elsewhere, taking their vital spending with them,” Clifford added.
He argued that instead of ending the VAT Retail Export Scheme, the government should be extending it, in order to support Britain’s recovery from the economic hardships caused by coronavirus.
“Even if as rumoured that this decision is temporary, to withdraw tax-free shopping entirely rather than extending it to the EU as we leave will have deeply damaging consequences to employment and the UK economy as a whole. I urge you please to reconsider this decision,” Clifford said.