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Fashion addicts fix my timing crisis

Michael Ashison's customers help him decide when to put new season product on the shop floor

Timing is a key element in deciding when to release new stock to the shop floor. When in season, new stock has to be processed and on the shop floor for the weekend. This is simple enough. The problems occur when you switch into a new season or go out of Sale.

I am finding that the main problem is that due to the Sale my shops do not look as pristine as usual, while the fact that we always try to take in stock as early as possible adds to the chaos. Of course, if your shops are big enough it should be easy with the use of point of sale and signage to tell customers what's new and fresh. But with Sales seeming to go on forever these days and customers always on the hunt for a bargain, does this strategy work? Will they buy new stock?

For us the answer lies in the past. My fellow Bullfrogs director Demian Brewster set up our computerised stock control system back in 2002. This allows us to look back and track our performance during Sales. We noticed that after about three weeks Sale fatigue sets in, when, for example, a customer becomes bored of the Sale product and like an addict needs a fix of new fashion. This is my kind of customer, as they provide a good barometer of the coming season. If they buy early, there is a fair chance you have got something right

I have noticed recently that a number of high street stores are full of autumn/winter stock. Do they know something we don't? Or maybe, like myself and other shopping addicts, they need a break from the colour overload that has dominated spring/summer 07. Time will tell who has got it right.

As for the new season, what are the key looks and trends for footwear? Well, as trends are going to be more grown up with 1940s and 1950s-inspired skirting and high-waisted trousers becoming more mainstream, I think smarter boots should make a bit of a comeback. Also, heavy belted knitwear teamed with skinny jeans and pencil skirts should drive sales of mid- and high-heeled court and platform shoes. Volume will be in flat casual boots, and don't write off ballet pumps just yet. Ugg and its derivatives should also play a part this season. I thought Ugg had peaked a couple of years ago, but we experienced good sales for the brand last season.

As usual my mantra for the start of any season is the Boy Scouts motto "be prepared". Have plenty of open to buy budget, do your homework, and remember - be independent.

- Michael Ashison co-owns footwear business Bullfrogs in London.

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