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Ex-Principles suppliers set up etail venture

Suppliers hit by the collapse of womenswear chain Principles have joined forces in an unprecedented move to create a transactional website to directly serve female shoppers aged 30 and above.

The business, called Epiq, was set up to help the suppliers recoup some of the losses resulting from Principles’ sudden closure, after its parent company Mosaic Fashions collapsed into administration in March.

The new company, which trades from www.epiqfashion.com, is understood to have been formed by a conglomerate of Principles’ former suppliers, led by a mystery Far Eastern supplier. The group includes Principles’ five largest suppliers, all of whom were with the chain for more than 10 years. They all insisted on anonymity as Drapers went to press, for fear of losing business with other multiples they supply.

A spokesman for Epiq, which has shifted staff who worked on the Principles accounts to the Epiq venture, said although the suppliers were previously in competition with each other, they had joined forces in an attempt to retain a slice of the 30-plus womenswear market before it was swallowed up by Principles’ competitors.

He said: “Principles was a large piece of the concession retail market so a large slice was suddenly missing. The suppliers understand the Principles customer, the quality and fit.”

Key pieces on the site include silk cowl-neck dresses and blazers, which both retail for £45, as well as draped tunic tops which sell for £30.

The spokesman added: “We are now able to continue supplying the Principles customer but at a much more competitive price. Launching with an etail-only offering also means accelerated speed to market and reaction times to sales.”

He added: “The initial items on our website reflect phase two of Principles’ spring 09 collection with a few additional pieces.”

The company is also in talks with multiple retailers about wholesaling the brand.

The spokesman said Principles’ demise had left key suppliers with holes in their order books as well as money owing and overstocks. Debenhams, which bought the Principles stock seized by administrator Deloitte, made some offers to suppliers to buy additional stock. But some are believed to have rejected the department store chain’s offers for being “too low”.

The creation of Epiq and its site was also more attractive to the supply group because it will deliver good margin gains.

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