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***UPDATED*** When is the recession going to end and will my suit sales ever go back to what they were?

I’m afraid that may never be the case, the workplace will never return to being a suit only zone. What you can hope for is to become a bigger fish in an ever decreasing pond. Check your local competition, assess the opportunity (who’s closing, who’s reducing their formal offer). If you buy well you can retain authority and grow market share. Demand spikes will happen as trends come and go, just do not expect this to be a growing market in totality over a five year period.

Peter Ruis, Buying Director Fashion, John Lewis

As I’ve discussed previously, the general consensus is that we have seen the worst of the recession. In recent days, concerns have been raised about the potential for a ‘double-dip’ recession – meaning that the economy will deteriorate again to the lows we saw in March before recovering – so there’s no guarantee that the worst is over.

The fashion industry obviously relies heavily on consumer confidence. With news of higher unemployment and a stagnant housing market being the main concern for the man/woman on the street, less people will be inclined to go on an impulsive Saturday spending-spree. The British consumer, who for the past ten years has splashed-out courtesy of easy credit, will undoubtedly tighten their purse-strings for the time being.

It took approximately 12 months for the UK economy to nosedive into the worst recession in living memory. Unfortunately, the recovery will be a longer haul. I’d suggest it will take anything from three to five years to see the economy reach 2.5% growth again.

My advice for you right now, think very carefully about your products and pricing. The British are going to change their shopping habits, reign in their spending and think more carefully before recklessly adding another few hundred pounds to their credit card account!

Rob Bollé, Corporate Client Dealer, Moneycorp

I’d love to know when the recession will end but I don’t think anyone can say that with certainty just yet! The latest prediction (from the influential Ernst & Young Item Club) says that the UK economy will contract by 4.5% this year, worse than the 3.5% the government is predicting. They think that talk of recovery is premature, and that swine flu could add to the negative impact of the recession to the tune of a further 1.2% dip. This means the recession will definitely continue into next year. While such dire predictions do not always come true, it’s a safe bet that with unemployment still rising even after recovery sets it, the spending environment will remain weak for some time. Some experts even think that early signs of recovery will be followed by a further dip. On the plus side, interest rates will stay low, banks are lending more aggressively and the ability to renegotiate property terms will be stronger. But banks are still unlikely to meet the demands for credit from both businesses and consumers. That will depress consumer spending and investment in stock by stores. While a suit is seen as an indication that its wearer really means business, the increasing number of people forced into part-time work or shorter hours means fewer of them will have the money to buy one. While suit spending at the ultra-luxury level might be maintained, it’s the lower price scale that will benefit from the need to look businesslike the most and those in the middle could find it a very tight squeeze for some time yet. At the designer end of the market, the recent menswear catwalks shows highlighted how labels are addressing the fall-off in formal suit sales by injecting strong fashion elements into their offer. Suits are becoming softer and more relaxed with the classic 2SB being reworked in fashionable (but very wearable) colours.

Sandra Halliday,WGSN Global Managing Editor, WGSN

Predicting the end of the recession is so hard as it is a global recession which does effect almost every industry and every business. There was a renaissance of the suit during the last recession and the fashion world is so cyclical that I am sure we will see that again. It is interesting to see that with the introduction of school Proms/Balls the younger generation are certainly purchasing evening wear and dinner suits earlier – perhaps that could the boost needed for suit sales!

Frances Card MD, Frances Card Consultancy

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thierry Bayle

    The point is not to focus on what you cannot control ( trends, recession ) but to focus on what you can control.
    * Buying more or less suits
    * Buying into other products types ( knits, shirts, accesories ...) and some of those will be hot. Take measurements and read what they tell you.
    "Learn to make numbers talk and they will reveal the future"
    Like Frances said, prediction is impossible BUT if the trend is down, we get our clients to buy less and there are less discounts. We then invest our pounds in winning products classes and grow the business that way.
    Give it a try and let me know.
    All the best.
    Thierry BAYLE
    Management One


    PS Lately I was speaking with a retailer who forget to take the pulse of his customers and did not realise that their needs had changed within a class ( see whether the suits you buy are those your customers want ).

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