Independent lingerie retailers from across the UK have expressed mixed reviews over the rise of the Living Wage.
On November 2, the voluntary rate increased by 40p to £8.25, compared to the government’s compulsory National Living Wage of £7.20, which is set to come into force for over 25-year-olds next April.
Speaking to Lingerie Insight, independent retailers agreed that their employees should be paid fairly, but voiced concerns that they would be forced to raise their prices and cut jobs by the time the National Living Wage breaches £9 an hour in 2020.
Georgina Willis, owner of West Sussex-based Guilt Lingerie said the new rate tops a long list of challenges facing small business owners in the sector.
“In the lingerie business bra fitters are hugely undervalued with years of experience and training needed to achieve best results. Sadly, this is not reflected in their pay packets. The cost prices of lingerie are high and the independent lingerie shops in the main sadly cannot afford to pay their professional bra fitters their true worth.
“The new situation, in addition to the introduction of auto-enrolment, let alone the high costs for rent and rates, is killing off the Savile Row end of our well-established British industry – renowned for excellence in bra fitting.”
Sarah Connelly, director of Edinburgh-based Odyssey Boutique added: “In principal I can see how a Living Wage is attractive to all in an ideal world. Businesses who expect a skilled and committed work-force do have to pay fairly. Unfortunately the reality of ever increasing overheads makes a Living Wage difficult to implement.”
“Small businesses are already struggling with the new auto-enrolment pension scheme adding a Living Wage to this creates a huge financial burden,” Connelly continued.
“I need a certain number of staff in my business to maintain continuity and meet service standards; I will consider alternative staffing options in the future to meet higher staff costs going forward.”
Karen Forbes, owner of The Little Big Bra Shop in Market Harborough is in two minds over the situation.
“It’s a really tricky one,” she said. “I already pay my staff a bit over the minimum wage as I want to be a good/fair employer that people want to work hard for and also retain good staff who work hard and are skilled at what we do.
“On the flip side, I do believe that we can’t keep increasing our outgoing costs; we also have to be able to pay ourselves a decent living and keep cash flow healthy to keep our businesses going.
“If they want us to pay staff more, I would like to see the lowering of the VAT or Corp tax to allow us the funds to do this.”