Yet, by the late 1930s some fashion manufacturers were already beginning to leave London. Land was expensive in the city, and space for expanding to bigger and newer factories was limited. This made it hard for London-based producers to use the latest manufacturing technology and processes, causing them competitive disadvantage. The UK government had also started to provide incentives for businesses to relocate to areas that had been designated as economically deprived, such as South Wales, Cumberland and Tyneside. It was these reasons that prompted Steinberg & Sons to move much of their production from London’s East End to South Wales in 1939.
The impact of bombing in London during the Second World War provided an added incentive for businesses to leave the city in the early 1940s. The homes of many workers were damaged or destroyed, causing them to relocate and find new jobs. The impact of this can be seen in census returns. For example, the number of garment workers living in Stepney in the East End fell from 30,282 in 1931 to just 9,535 in 1951. Many factories were bombed too, and the total compensation claim for bomb damage from London’s garment industry amounted to £100 million, approximately £3.8 billion in today’s money. Faced with the disruption and uncertainty of daily bombing raids, major manufacturers sought new homes. L. Harris Ltd moved the bulk of its production from Goswell Road in Clerkenwell to new factories in Halifax, Merseyside and Birkenhead during the war, and Moss Bros moved its trouser manufacturing from the East End to suburban Dorking.