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Always look on the bright side of life

After a week away from the office, I breezed back into work on the wave of a New Year's resolution to be more positive. It's my annual vow and generally lasts about as long as a committed smoker's attempt to give up the evil weed.

Nevertheless, I was resolute and started the day in a hale and hearty mood. One of the jobs that we always face at Drapers after returning from a break is catching up with what the rest of the world's media has written about retail while we've been away. After ploughing through a pile of newspaper cuttings and news alerts on email, the positivity vibe was well and truly under attack.

As a journalist I know that Christmas and New Year are slow news times and having to rewrite and put a new spin on the same trading story as much as three times in a week can leave you feeling pretty jaded. But the doom and gloom among the economic forecasters in the media seemed all-pervasive.

Admittedly the outlook for 2007 is not great, and it was interesting to see a lot of the subjects highlighted in December's Drapers Top 100 - such as personal debt and global warming - being cited as the issues that will continue to dominate in the year ahead.

But if you believed everything you read in the papers, it would be the end of retail as we know it. Clearly that is not the case. What we are seeing are weak or undifferentiated retailers getting weaker, while those that deliver a strong, clear message about their offer and why they offer it are getting stronger.

In this week's issue we have asked retail executives and industry commentators to give their view on what 2007 has in store for fashion retailers, and some common themes emerged.

One of the most popular topics was the desperate need for the industry to start adjusting its supply chain to deal with the new seasonality brought about by global warming. On my first day back at work, the forecast was for the top temperature to hit 13 degrees - clearly no hat or gloves were required. But if the weathermen predict a cold snap, you can bet by the time that it arrives there will be very few coats, hats or gloves on offer. We look at the problems this will create and how retailers should be tackling them on pages 8 and 9.

The second common theme to come out of our executives' crystal ball-gazing was that if you want to drive your business forward in 2007, you must continue to innovate via your product offer, store environment and service. If you don't set yourself apart from your competitors in this way, you can guarantee that they will go elsewhere.

The third question posed by our executives was whether shoppers are disillusioned with fast fashion. The answer is that they are predisposed to spend less but they will still expect newness.

When times are tough there is always a temptation to stick with what you know and wait for things to get better, but these are not the times for that sort of strategy. To hark back to my New Year's resolution, what is required is positive action.

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