British luxury sector now worth £48 billion – report

Exports and the rise of shopping tourism have helped lift sales from the UK luxury industries grow by 49% in the four years from 2013-2017, and are expected to grow by a further 35% by 2024.

According to a report released by Walpole, the luxury trade body, the UK luxury industries now contribute £48 billion a year to the British economy. They include designer clothing and footwear, fine wines and spirits, luxury accessories, luxury jewellery and timepieces, high-end beauty and high-end car manufacturing.

And there are signs the sector will continue to grow rapidly to an estimated £65 billion by 2024 if the UK and the European Union secure an agreement on their future trading relationship.

That is because the sector is increasingly export-focused, with 80% of production destined for overseas markets such as the European Union, North America and China. This is up 54% since 2013.

International shoppers are also accounting for a significant proportion of luxury sales made in the UK, with £4.5 billion spent by non-UK residents on high-end goods in 2017. China, all Arab states excluding Iraq and the US are the top three purchasing nations.

Helen Brocklebank, CEO of Walpole, commented: “These figures demonstrate the exceptional contribution British luxury makes to the UK economy and to the reputation of Brand Britain worldwide.

“Few other business sectors can demonstrate growth of nearly 50% in just four years and, against a challenging political backdrop, this is a sector that continues to demonstrate a commitment to investing in UK manufacturing and creating sustainable employment across the country.”

According to the figures, leaving the European Union without a deal would cost British luxury businesses £6.8 billion in lost export revenues.
“Now is the time for policy makers to provide distinct sector recognition and to guarantee a suitable framework to protect the growth of the UK’s high-end creative and cultural industries,” the Walpole CEO continued.

Michael Ward, chairman of Walpole and managing director of Harrods, said: “Britain’s luxury brands are our calling card to the world. We should be enormously proud of these businesses: their heritage, creativity, craftsmanship, quality, innovation – and the contribution they make economically, culturally and to soft power diplomacy. It is critically important that this thriving sector is promoted and protected to ensure its long-term growth.”