Few things are as quintessentially British as a bespoke suit from London’s Savile Row, so how better to benefit from the U.K.’s economic turmoil than getting two for a bargain.
On a stroll down the fashionable Mayfair street, the mixed blessings of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union are on display: American customers are buying more, taking advantage of sterling’s tumble against the dollar, while local clients are skittish, fearing for their jobs in industries such as finance and banking.
“What has changed is one suit has become two suits,” said Simon Cundey, managing director of tailor shop Henry Poole, in reference to U.S.-based customers, who comprise about 40 percent of sales. “We’ve even had customers just lay down deposits for suits, and they will be over here for July and August choosing them. That’s how good it is for the business.”
The outlook for British clients, who account for about 30 percent of sales, is “going to be interesting,” said Cundey, whose shop, founded in 1806, cut the very first dinner jacket. “My fear is that, as my business is made up of a lot of property financiers, legal and banking, we may have a job situation over the next few years.”
Savile Row, home to Britain’s best tailors for nearly 300 years, illustrates the upsides and downsides that various industries are balancing in the wake of the EU vote. A few blocks down on Jermyn Street, where the discerning gentleman buys his shirts, outlets are using a similar strategy to lure overseas buyers. Hilditch & Key, which counts Karl Lagerfeld among its customers, sent out an e-mail that urged overseas customers to take advantage of the strong dollar against the pound.
U.K. retailers need tourists to pick up the slack for local shoppers who have proven skittish since the referendum vote. That’s resulted in a 3.6 percent sales decline across all U.K. merchants in June, the worst result for that month in more than a decade, according to advisory firm BDO. Visitors from Asia and other regions are already descending on London’s Oxford Street, providing a much-needed shot in the arm for U.K. luxury companies like Burberry Group Plc. Some will wind their way over to nearby Savile Row as well.
“Sometimes we’ve got lots of U.S. clients who are just browsing, but actually this time they are buying,” said Mahesh Habugoda, a retail manager at tailor Ozwald Boateng. “If someone’s buying a suit, they might buy two shirts, and throw in an extra tie.”