British lingerie brands have reacted with anger to news that the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) will make cuts to the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) which supports SME companies at key international trade fairs like Mode City, Paris and New York’s Curve Expo.
The decision, which was made this month, would eradicate approximately 50% of the remainder of the TAP programme in the period January to March 2015, according to the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT).
The move by the UKTI could also lead to the cancellation of some group exhibitions, and bring higher show costs for those utilising TAP at present, Sponsors Alliance, an organisation that promotes and assists in improving trade show support for UK SMEs, said on its website.
Lingerie Insight spoke to a number of British brands that have been taking part in international trade shows in recent years, many of whom have used the support of TAP and UKTI. Among them, Catherine Clavering – founder of Kiss Me Deadly – said the growth of SMEs could be hindered by the cuts.
“As a small brand we’ve used the grants many times to help alleviate the costs of trade shows. These easily run up to £4000 or more, even with the young designers discount schemes, and after travel, accomodation and expenses are taken into account,” she added.
“As far as I can see, this will leave the UK in the bizarre position of generating the most start-up talent, but with very minimal support for them to grow.”
Michelle Blenkinsopp, creative director of Shell Belle Couture, which has benefited from TAP funding since it launched in 2010, said she was “shocked” to hear that she may no longer be entitled to receive grants needed to help her brand expand in new markets.
“I feel that the proposed funding cuts will be extremely detrimental to the growth of new brands in the fashion industry and especially the development of the UK export market,” she added.
“The government is stating on one hand that the export market is vital to growth and yet they are proposing cuts that will disable growth. When you look at other markets, especially France, they fully support and are proud of their home-grown designers. It’s such a shame that UK Trade & Investment doesn’t feel the same way, especially as the British are regarded as some of the best designers in the world.”
Paul Alger, director of International Affairs at the UKFT, which is currently campaigning for the TAP cuts to be reversed, commented: “This is devastating news for small companies looking to expand into new markets. Potentially, it undermines all of the good work we have done to support new brands over many years. Medium and large businesses invariably start out as small businesses.
"They are our hope for the future in the battle for international markets. If the government does not want to help newer businesses financially as our competitors do, we will not be able to reach the PM’s target on exports.”
Having contacted UKTI, a spokesperson told Lingerie Insight’s sister publication Professional Jeweller: "We continually review all our programmes and services to ensure they are most effective, and are working closely with our accredited trade organisations (ATOs).
“UKTI remains committed to supporting businesses expand internationally and funding for the TAP has nearly doubled compared to the 2012 to 2013 financial year."
The spokesperson added that UKTI will honour grant applications that have already been approved by the TAP team for any forthcoming events, stating: "We are working closely with our accredited trade organisers (ATOs) regarding any new grant applications, trying to be as flexible as we can within our budget constraints, although ceilings for the numbers of grant applications that can be accepted for each event remaining in the programme have in many cases been reduced."
Eurovet, the organiser of lingerie and fabric shows like Mode City, declined to comment when contacted by Lingerie Insight.