LONDON — Walpole, the association of British luxury businesses, is returning to New York for the first time since the end of the pandemic, to promote British design, products and ingenuity.
Walpole chief executive officer Helen Brocklebank and director Charlotte Keesing will be accompanying 25 brands including Fortnum & Mason, Harris Tweed Hebrides and The Bicester Collection to New York, and leading a series of industry-focused events set to take place from Monday through March 10.
Those meetings with U.S. luxury industry figures and the media are aimed at fortifying trade and investment ties between the two countries, and highlighting British craft, traditional products and services ahead of the coronation of King Charles III in May.
Brocklebank said the U.S. offers a “huge” growth opportunity for British luxury “and the appetite of the U.S. customer for our brands and services grows every year.”
Walpole’s members export around 80 percent of their products and services internationally. The U.S., the world’s largest market for luxury goods, is a key trading partner.
Brocklebank added that as international travel rebounds post-pandemic, “we are keen to ensure that the U.K. and our variety of cultural experiences, world-class retail and British luxury hospitality is front of mind for U.S. visitors thinking of making a trip here.”
The trip is being supported by the U.K. Department for Trade and Business, and other governmental bodies.
Walpole, a not-for-profit organization that represents more than 250 high-end companies that contribute an estimated 2.5 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, is making the trip against a challenging climate for retail in the U.K.
Sales momentum in London is growing, but high-end businesses in particular are suffering from the cancellation of tax-free shopping for nonresidents. While wealthy foreign tourists may be visiting Britain, they’re opting to buy their luxury goods in Continental Europe, where they can claim back VAT.
According to research from New West End Company published earlier this week, London’s West End remains on track to reach its historical annual turnover of 10 billion pounds by 2025. Despite slowed recovery due to economic uncertainty and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, the research said that year-to-date sales are up 56 percent compared to 2021.
New West End Company is calling on the U.K. government to reintroduce tax-free shopping in the U.K., and also relax Sunday trading laws in the shopping hubs of the West End and Knightsbridge.