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Autumn 13: Who’s selling what

Some of the high street’s biggest hitters reveal their winning trends for autumn, as well as some of the items that have failed to impress shoppers.

Autumn 13 on the high street is now well under way, with most of summer’s bikinis and sandals shifted and knitwear and cold-weather pieces hitting the shop floor.

New advertising campaigns vie for attention, pointing customers to the hero pieces retailers are backing for autumn, even if the weather isn’t quite on board yet.

With this in mind, Drapers spoke to some of the big-hitters on the high street to find out what has already been selling and what is predicted to do well throughout autumn 13.

For womenswear, the trend on the lips of every retailer is the 1990s grunge look. “We will see a grungier, punk look with checks in various sizes, colours and prints,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, head designer at H&M.

Matalan head of design Liz Wilson says that “tartan, checks and plaid are proving popular for autumn,” referencing checked shirts and skirts as the strongest pieces.

“Our customers are tartan mad this season,” agrees Helen Connolly, director of buying at George. “[They are] picking up everything from dresses and shirts through to rucksacks and skirts.”

Madelaine Evans, head of buying at Topshop, says the retailer’s Dark Craft range, which taps into the trend, “is doing very well, in particular the kimonos and hotpants”. Emma Fox, womenswear design director at Asos, adds that the punk trend has “already had a great reaction, with customers buying statement sweaters and check pieces”.

Similarly in menswear, Andrew Grant, men’s design controller at River Island, cites vintage buffalo checks across shirts and skinny or slim-fit jeans as key. But men’s trends are looking more fragmented, with Grant adding: “The key new trend for us has to be the skate look. Oversized tops, lightweight layering and bold graphics all feature heavily.”

Mandy Kearns, buying director for Tesco’s F&F, emphasises “the American collegiate trend” as this season’s big draw, adding “sweats and varsity jackets are a key hero category.”

James Barron, Asos head of buying, menswear own buy, agrees: “Autumn jackets continue to perform well.

Bombers, Harrington and varsity shapes have been the strongest performers.”

Grant concurs, noting “outerwear looks particularly strong this season, with an emphasis on texture, silhouette and fabrication. Parkas and bombers are the key shapes, with our hybrid biker coat being the must-have”.

In Women’s Outerwear, the one item many retailers are banking on is the pink coat. It was hard to miss the online frenzy last week when Marks & Spencer’s own £85 version hit stores after much hype, and other retailers are set to follow. Iain Ewing, design manager of womenswear and accessories at John Lewis, says: “We’re predicting the pink coat will be a key piece. It offers the modern woman a trusty winter layer with an air of femininity and acts as the perfect counterpart to grey and navy wardrobe staples.”

Connolly predicts that the £25 pink coat from George’s Tickled Pink collection supporting breast cancer awareness will be a best-seller this season, while Barbara Horspool, product director at Jigsaw, says the colour will be most prominent across “the volume coat and cashmere oversize jumper”.

However, sales of outerwear and heavier winter pieces are expected to really pick up later in the season, as warmer weather in August meant demand thus far has been low. Suzi Avens, director of adult buying at Boden, says: “Our customer is ordering pieces she can wear now, rather than buying ahead. We expect knitwear, boots and outerwear to pick up as colder weather arrives.”

Matalan’s Wilson echoes these sentiments, telling Drapers: “Our customer will buy more into heavier pieces as winter approaches.

Our chunky sweaters will be popular and we expect parkas to sell all season.”

“At this stage, suiting is key as people go ‘back to work’,” says Karen Boyd, head designer at Hobbs. “As the nights draw in coats become king.”

For now, customers are looking to layering to bolster their wardrobes, with Uniqlo’s European merchandising director Justin Kerr commenting: “It’s still hot, so layering pieces are key right now. Our extra-fine merino is flying out [for menswear]. Customers are buying in bulk quantities because they layer with our Oxford shirts for all different occasions.”

Connolly adds: “Layering is going to be big this autumn. Soft textured novelty knits are selling well.” However, in contrast to the slower pick-up of winter apparel, Connolly says that “the transition into winter footwear has begun, with a great start on autumn footwear such as affordable real leather riding boots and fashion-forward biker boots”.

But not everything’s flying out, as even the savviest retailers note that certain trends have already fallen by the wayside early on. Uniqlo cites all-over prints as less popular than in previous seasons, while Boden’s Avens describes colour blocking as “a damp squib”. Wilson reveals that Matalan’s “classic tailored suits have become less popular, as we are selling more standalone jackets”. River Island’s Grant notes: “With the knit-heavy heritage looks of the last few seasons finally coming to an end and the emergence of more sports-inspired trends, we might see a decline in knitwear. So early in the season it’s hard to tell how it will pan out”.

Here’s hoping the crystal ball clears up quickly to give retailers the best chance of full-price sales this autumn.

Key trends


  • Punk/grunge
  • Pink, especially outerwear
  • Fine layering


  • Bomber/varsity jackets
  • Skate-influenced pieces
  • Buffalo checks

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