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Stop trying to sell me jerseys in July

The red signs have started to appear in fashion retailers' windows across the land, which can only mean one thing. Yes, it's Sale time again.

Some of the multiples have so far only dipped their toe in the water with discounts on "selected lines". But others have already bitten the bullet and gone into full Sale already - or have at least announced their intention to do so within the next week.

Of course, for shoppers, at least, this is all quite fortuitous. They've barely needed any summer clothing so far this year. Now that the weather is showing signs of improvement (albeit unconvincing signs in some parts of the country), they can now pick up all the summer clothes and shoes they may need at knock-down prices.

For retailers it's a different story. After the false dawn of summery weather in April, it's done pretty much nothing but rain since.

All this raises the age-old argument of whether or not the fashion industry is just shooting itself in the foot by sticking to the traditional season structure. Does it really make sense for retailers to be frantically discounting sarongs, shorts and sandals at exactly the time when shoppers may be prepared to pay full price for them? Especially if the purpose of the exercise is to make way for the arrival of knits, coats and boots that no one will need for at least four months - and if the weather is anything like as warm as last winter, they won't need at all.

Am I also alone in thinking that while winter clothes arrive in the shops too early, party clothes arrive too late? Actually, I know I'm not alone - an independent womenswear retailer told me the same thing just last week. It's almost impossible to find a decent selection of cocktail dresses before November. Why do we assume that people only want or need to dress up over Christmas? They have parties to go to at other times of year.

Yes, there are those fashion addicts who order their wardrobes a season in advance and who put themselves on the waiting list for a designer handbag even before the designer in question has designed it. For them the seasons are irrelevant, it's just a question of ensuring they have the latest must-have item before anyone else gets hold of it.

But a far larger proportion of the population tends to buy clothes on a need-to-wear basis - it's July, I need sandals, therefore I will buy sandals. But of course they won't be able to buy sandals, because the shops will be full of sheepskin boots.

It seems to me to make more practical sense - and probably more financial sense - to sell clothes that are appropriate for the season. I know this is a debate that has raged for many years and, apart from more in-season buying, very little has changed.

But fashion is becoming much more time-sensitive because of the whims of the weather and the speed at which trends change.

Perhaps it's time for the industry to take another look at this structure and ask whether we're really doing what's best for ourselves and the shopping public.

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