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Autumn is an endless wall of grunge

Rebecca Furbank's enthusiasm for the coming season is tempered by a mass of colourless ranges

I have hardly been able to catch my breath since the start of the year. Sale time was busy despite concerns about the high street stealing my thunder. New stock is being delivered and even with talented staff I've struggled to keep on top of merchandising, although the snow chaos did give all of us a whole day of creating a new look in the shop without upsetting any customers.

Ever since the snow melted and the snowdrops poked their heads through the ground, sales of spring stock have been soaring. The occasionwear floor sometimes feels as though a stampede has been through it.

On top of this there's also buying, promotion planning and e-commerce lurking in the background. My adrenalin levels must be way off the scale - who needs caffeine?

I'm sure every other retailer is in the same boat so let's get to the nitty gritty of buying. I'm about halfway through and it has been a roller-coaster of emotions. There is always great anticipation before seeing the first few collections and discovering the new trends, colours and styles. Most of the time you get an instant feel for how the buying season is going to go. If those first collections are great, the rest of the buying seems to flow quite well. If not, you know it's going to be a struggle.

I was buoyant when I started my buying. I had a good sell-through with autumn 06 stock and I had money to spend, but I was slapped in the face with those first collections. All I can describe is viewing a wall of grunge. Suppliers said autumn 07 was going to be colourless and there certainly weren't any innovative styles to lift the tone. Concern then set in, but my panic state was held at bay because it was still early days, pre-CPD, pre-Pure and pre my bulk of appointments.

Germany, on the whole, was very successful. I still feel it is an important trip to make - I can find out what the trends are and compare several of my suppliers, which are all based in a relatively small area.

I did manage to find some colour, so the grunge panic was put to one side. I also managed to look beyond the terracotta shades, which are so bad for the British complexion.

Colour is always a difficult issue for winter. We all ask for it, yet when it is offered it is often avoided because it is too incongruous with the rest of the collections. Bright colours are easy to introduce in the spring, but in the winter they have to be softened or at least linked with the rest of the collection. So as a buyer I want colour, but I want the right colour.

Having now done another full week of buying and had a trip to Pure, I feel confident about autumn 07, but the only real significant trend is the white shirt. It seems almost every collection I have bought was in need of one. Customers are going to need educating, because we're all used to having the convenience of wearing tops that need little or no ironing. To go back to the crisp white shirt will require a good iron with plenty of steam and a strong right arm.

- Rebecca Furbank is a partner in womenswear independent Anne Furbank in Buckden, Cambridgeshire.

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