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Credit to those who brave the storms

It is somewhat ironic that while the product at this season's CPD womenswear show in Dusseldorf had moved on and was looking in its best shape for several seasons, many UK buyers couldn't get out to see it.

Through our weekly polls at Drapersblog.com and our Indicator survey of fashion indies, we've gathered much evidence to suggest that buyers are travelling less to international shows this season. Some 65% of this week's voters at Drapersblog.com say they won't be travelling to the spring 08 womenswear shows.

But even those hardy folk who wanted to get to Dusseldorf and hadn't been put off by a spectacularly tough season, budget or time constraints found their plans scuppered at the last minute by the very same weather that has caused misery on the trading front in recent weeks. Several UK buyers had to abandon their Dusseldorf trip at the very last minute, having arrived at Heathrow last Saturday to find no flights. Some didn't even get that far. I heard stories of several poor souls stranded on the flooded motorways of the Midlands or put up in temporary accommodation. I'm sure those fashion-lovers who found themselves sleeping on mattresses in a school hall with other travellers will look back and laugh one day.

Those that did get out to Germany - and, as usual, there was a strong contingent of buyers from the Republic of Ireland and Scotland - will have seen that many collections have made real progress this season. Yes, there was plenty of the usual safari fare and classic navy and white, but these are, after all, very commercial looks for the classic womenswear market. There was also colour in the form of acid brights, soft pinks, bright blues and reds, which looked great next to the ever-present greys.

Some of the most successful collections had injected some freshness without alienating their target market. Retail guru Mary Portas would have found plenty to satisfy the market she has dubbed the "Forever 40s".

That said, targeting a slightly different market - going older or more high-end in their offer - was an option being considered by some retailers. A torrid season, featuring a twin-pronged attack on the middle-market from the ever-improving Marks & Spencer and the ever-worsening weather, has left them wondering whether a rethink might be in order.

Appealing to older target customers, which at times struggle to find good quality, fashionable yet age-appropriate clothing, may not be a bad move for those considering it. And anecdotal evidence suggests the premium market is weathering the literal and metaphorical storms better than most, so moving in that direction is understandably tempting.

However some brands and retailers, who were sticking with the market and who made their way to Dusseldorf, were determined not to talk themselves into a slump, even though some had stores and stockrooms under several inches of water.

Those kind of people deserve to succeed no matter what sector or market conditions they find themselves in. Let's hope they, and many of you, do.

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