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Brands offer a port in the trading storm

Just two weeks into February, we have already seen several big retailers bite the dust. Home shopping business Empire Stores and footwear chain Dolcis may be names that in recent times have lacked lustre, but in their day they really meant something to their customers.

A retailer’s reliance on a brand, whether it is its own or the name of those brands it sells, becomes more significant when trading is tough. Throughout January the Drapers team has been travelling to trade shows all over Europe, and the message from multi-brand retailers is that they are sticking with the labels that perform for them and enhance their own brand name.

The fast-fashion revolution has made the UK’s high street fashion retailers the most competitive in the world, but in terms of building great brand names one has to wonder if it has been quite so successful.

Brands have never been more important than now, because customers have a tendency to retreat to names they trust in uncertain times. After all, when you are buying less you want to be convinced that what you are buying is going to deliver on its promises.

The chief executive of one fast-fashion chain I spoke to last week questioned the efficacy of non-stop trend chasing. “We have been in danger of being obsessive about having every look covered, and forgetting that the offer should be about what works for us and reinforces what we are about as a brand,” he said.

So whether you are a multiple, indie or brand, now may be the time to do a quick health check on your business, remind yourself what it stands for and ensure that in 2008 you deliver on your promises.

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