The question on everybody’s lips… Kayleigh-Paige Rees, an actress, model, and producer, looks at what the future holds for the high street, fast fashion, and independent stores.

In this unprecedented time, we are all trying to navigate how to handle our new daily routine and how to stay safe and indoors to protect our family and friends. With all of this on our minds, it’s worrying to think what life will look like in the future.

According to the figures disclosed by the Centre for Retail Research, we will see over 20,000 stores close due to Covid-19 at the end of this year, a massive leap from the 4,547 that closed in 2019. The retail sector itself had sales of £348 million last year and employs 3.5 million people in the UK. Retail is the largest employment sector in the UK and was already in upheaval. This will further challenge everyone more so than ever.

There is a need for brands and landlords to work together to alleviate the impact of Coronavirus on the industry. Unfortunately, now landlords are holding up rent agreements because they are already committed. However, the decline in sales will mean that retailers are likely to need changes and reductions from landlords – and some brands have already begun to close because they aren’t getting them.

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the unfortunate closure of Laura Ashley, as well as huge retail giants Oasis and Warehouse who announced they were up for sale just after lockdown was asserted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In a statement, the retailer said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation”.

Although this was just after the closure announcements, more firms have announced that they are

in trouble as the lockdown has continued – and with reports that it may last for the rest of the year in some form, more will surely follow. Primark owners Associated British Foods have announced that it is said to lose £650 million just from the first three weeks. Primark is dissimilar from stores such as Zara and H&M because it does not have an online presence. This will lead to a huge loss for Primark, and although other high street stores have online shopping, their supply chains from oversees have been halted, which leads to a huge delay in sales and supplies.

As well as the retail stores themselves, another huge problem is their supply chains. Due to this, it seems that fast fashion is the area which is going to be affected the most out of Covid-19.

A lot of key fashions brands have already shifted their supply from China to India and Turkey; however, this will lead to delays and low supplies on stock. A good number of brands have had to move their Fall/Winter collection back or cancel it entirely due to factory closures in China.

When it comes to the luxury sector, their reliance on the Chinese middle class as their consumer will

lead to shortfalls in sales.

However, fast fashion is highly problematic in itself, and this could mean good news for local, independent shops who are not part of the global supply chain and not dependent on sales from foreign destinations.

Additionally, the second-hand market will also benefit from the global supply issues with many more people using charity shops and making second-hand purchases from the likes of Depop, Ebay and local apps. Larger brands could now work closer with independent stores and this could advance both. The ‘Brands at Topshop’ concept in the Oxford Street store is a working example of this.

Fast fashion will have taken a huge hit in terms of supply and high street stores. However, independent shops and suppliers could be a solution to plugging the gap in supply whilst also helping to raise up less established brands and stores.

You can find more of KayleighPaige via her Instagram @kayleigh_px. Image above by Rhiannon D’Averc. Models: Shelby Howard and Jordan Walfall Jr

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