Tory Burch

“We need to keep our message front-and-center for more relief,” Tory Burch said late last week of the necessity for direct aid from Washington to the fashion and retail industries in the wake of the coronavirus devastation.

Her remarks to WWD were in response to the passage on Friday of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package. Burch and Pierre-Yves Roussel, her brand’s chief executive officer, have spearheaded the CFDA’s efforts to lobby the federal government for specific attention to and relief for the fashion industry in the wake of COVID-19.

“It is great that progress for a lot of people has been made, but we are still in the process of understanding how this will help our sector,” Burch said. “With stores closed for the foreseeable future, retail is among the first to feel the economic effects of the much-needed shelter-in-place orders.”

She noted that those companies now paying workers whose jobs cannot be done from home — the majority of whom are retail employees — have finite capacity to continue those payments. “Some businesses can stretch to keep employees on payroll for a couple of weeks, but not much longer. Immediate relief is essential.”

Keeping people employed should be the number-one priority of the industry and the government, Burch said. With massive layoffs already happening, she pointed to last week’s whopping numbers, as a record-smashing 3.2 million people applied for unemployment. “What the stimulus plan needs to do best is keep people in jobs,” Burch said. “It’s not about small business versus big business. It’s about keeping workers working.”

Burch was a driving force behind the letter sent on March 21 to the White House by 90 industry organizations, including the CFDA and the National Retail Federation. “The biggest single issue facing the industry right now is liquidity, and federal stimulus efforts must be swift and flexible enough to address the urgent need for access to credit to keep these businesses afloat,” it read. As the stimulus package was being hashed out in Washington, Burch was in direct contact with government leaders including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).

Burch lauded the aspects of the bill that deliver much-needed cash into the hands of individuals and families, the direct payments and increased unemployment benefits, calling them “essential.” Yet she cautioned that those actions are only a small part of what’s needed. “The best scenario is to keep people in their jobs during the isolation period so that they do not lose their medical benefits during this health crisis,” she said. “Additionally, with workforces in place, companies will be better able to restart post the pandemic.”

Burch expressed gratitude that the bill was passed. “Now we need to hammer out the details and enact the provisions as swiftly as possible…” she said. “Our sector represents millions of jobs and we need to make sure that American retail, fashion and apparel is protected. It is essential to the economy and to the American people.”

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