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Not partial to the Dane attraction

Mark Hale returns from Copenhagen with an empty wallet and little in the way of inspiration

Unlike last season, the terrorists failed to foil my plan to visit CPH and CIFF, so it was left to the restaurateurs and taxi drivers of Copenhagen. After my three days there, they left me feeling like I had been financially raped, mugged and beaten. But more of that later.

As for the shows, CPH on Friday was a bit of a let-down because we had gone out to source some smaller short-order collections that were, hopefully, a bit sexier and would fill the gap left by our current brands. But instead we were faced with a very Scandinavian look that was all smocks and tunics in various shades of grey. Typically, the one brand we did come across that grabbed our attention was British, but it was not showing at any UK shows so hopefully we can get in there ahead of some of those nasty department stores.

We also found one or two accessories brands that offered a great margin and were happy to supply us with a small initial order, even though they had no UK distribution or agents. This helped to ease the disappointment, and we left eager for the next day's visit to CIFF.

After another wallet-punishing taxi ride the following morning, we arrived at the show with renewed energy and anticipation, only to have the wind knocked out of our sails by the show's content. Little had we realised that this show was more like Moda in the UK, in as much as it had more of a classic touch.

Many companies there had permanent showrooms on the upper floors that I assume are used not only during the selling season, but also throughout the year, and it was a little disconcerting running the gauntlet of sales people who stood guard at every doorway. Surely they must realise how off-putting that is for any potential customer who might just want to flick through a collection, but could possibly place an order then or in the near future?

We pondered the idea of revisiting CPH, but decided that our first day's findings were probably correct and our time would be better spent checking out the retailer scene in Copenhagen city centre. After an enjoyable (and unfortunately for me, expensive) couple of hours we decided to head back for a well-earned rest before our last night enjoying the Danish hospitality.

In my time, during both business trips and holidays, I have eaten in some rather nice, and some not so nice, eateries. But the final nail in the coffin for this trip was hammered home by the rudest Italian I have ever met (yes, that includes the barmen at the Gilli Bar in Florence). They seemed to revel in providing the worst possible service while seriously overcharging for some way-below-average Italian food, not to mention more than £40 for a bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio that you can get in any UK supermarket for £3.99.

As you can guess I will probably not be repeating this trip in the near future. Next season I will be back sampling the tapas and sangria of Barcelona while enjoying the gossip and companionship, whether linked to our industry or not, of my fellow British retailers who make that show so worthwhile. See you all there.

- Mark Hale is the owner of menswear retailer Chessmen in Cardiff.

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