OPINION - Luxury, tax-free shopping should come back to London — Labour make it happen

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Labour is looking for growth opportunities that are ready to go and we have one right here. Top of the fashion industry agenda is tax-free shopping.

While we didn’t expect the Labour Party to campaign on the back of it, if we are truly to deliver growth, prosperity, jobs and inward investment, then it’s time to bring it back. It’s not only fashion that would benefit, but tourism, hospitality and the broader creative industries.

The fashion industry isn’t blind to the fact that the Conservative government called it a luxury tax as a way to make it look like large conglomerates and those with disposable income were the only beneficiaries.

This simply wasn’t correct. London — and the UK as a whole — is missing out on tourism spend because we have made the country appear like one that didn’t want international visitors, whether it was to study, stay or shop.

This isn’t a luxury tax, it is a tourism growth disincentive. Let’s get rid of it with gusto

For those of us that live and work here and know the power of the international visitor to our shores, we’re proud to welcome visitors from all over the world. We want them to enjoy our capital and country and spend their money here. By bringing back tax-free shopping, we will enjoy an estimated £10 billion annually in tourism spend.

So let’s change the narrative. This isn’t a luxury tax, it is a tourism growth disincentive. Let’s get rid of it with gusto, tell the world we want them to come and shop in our cities. They should know that Britain is for all tourists, including those with the budgets for luxury goods, hotels, restaurants, theatres and performances.

The data is clear. Research by the Association of International Retail shows that in addition to the £10 billion in tourism spend, the return of VAT-free shopping would help contribute to the wider economy — to the tune around £4 billion in GDP annually.

Seen like that, tax free can genuinely help our country. We will see our high streets thrive, our hotels and our restaurants buzz and our independent businesses able to grow. We would also see indirect support for the many UK-based manufacturers that our independent businesses rely on.

So let’s not delay, we need this boost today. Let the optimism that comes with a change of government take us forward with a real agenda for growth that we can all benefit from.

Caroline Rush is the chief executive of the British Fashion Council