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Winners’ Breakfast: Drapers Awards

Drapers Awards winners met to toast their success over breakfast at Sketch in London and debate the UK fashion industry’s hot topics.

Winners' breakfast

Winners’ breakfast

Alison Levy
Global director of brand development, fashion software company Fashion GPS, Drapers Awards 2014 sponsor

2015 will be all about how brands and companies can provide a better online and offline experience for customers. A key focus will be improving speed to market to satisfy the demands of today’s consumers that are driven by a ‘bigger, better, faster’ mindset.

Sandra McDill
Managing partner, digital agency iProspect, Drapers Awards 2014 sponsor

I know people have said this about previous years, but 2014 will definitely be remembered as the year of mobile. In 2015 there will be an even greater shift as more people gain access to Wi-Fi and 4G. Retailers need to keep pace with the way consumers interact with mobile technology and video.

Online content is key to engaging consumers and keeping them on your website. Essentially, it’s about bringing new people into the selling experience.

Richard Hyman Independent retail consultant, Drapers Awards 2014 judge

While 2014 has been the best year since 2008, it will be remembered for the warm weather during September and October, which has ruined autumn 14 trading performance. Retailers will have to repair [this] shortfall in sales, which will be difficult as general demand appears to have slowed.

2015 will be disappointing as there is far too much capacity in the market and there needs to be a shake-out. Businesses need to become fitter for purpose, for example Austin Reed, which is the first of a number of companies looking to restructure. There is still very good money to be made from retailing, but companies need to know their customers better.

Nick Bubb
Independent retail analyst, Drapers Awards 2014 judge

The weather has been a big issue this autumn, but August was helpful for sales of summer clothing.

The election dominates thinking Next year, and whoever the Chancellor is in 2015 will need to make some big decisions on tax revenues and general government spending. VAT will be high on the agenda, and I think interest rates will have increased by this time next year.

Howard Klepper
Owner of Karpelle, winner of Fashion Supplier of the Year

Whereas 15 years ago there was a shift towards manufacturing in Asia, a return to near-shoring has helped our business grow over the past five to six years, making 2014 the best year so far. We provide a high-quality manufacturing service to brands like Hobbs and LK Bennett, specialising in tailored coats. Brands like the fact we can be flexible and produce small runs of 300 to 1,200 units.

Brands really like the flexibility to repeat in season and appreciate that we can deliver garments eight weeks from order. Retailers are looking to work to shorter lead times. A couple of years ago our work was split 90% forward order, 10% repeat. Now the split is 60% forward order, 40% repeat. Retailers are clearly making money with repeats. We are looking to increase our market share in 2015, although all retailers have found autumn 14 very challenging.

Tristan Haddow
Chief executive of Haddow Group, highly commended Fashion Supplier of the Year

The supermarkets and high street retailers we work with are looking for margin and sell-through, as well as in-season repeats. Fashion is performing really well for grocers, but they are not looking to open any standalone clothing stores as buying garments in a supermarket is an impulse purchase and they benefit from the footfall of food shoppers coming into store.

Steve Hudson
Managing director of Curvy Kate, winner of Womenswear Brand of the Year

As a niche brand catering for women with a larger bust size, I think we hit the market at the right time and have been able to grow dramatically over the past five years. Our customers like the variety we offer.

2014 has been a strong year and it has helped being stocked by big players like John Lewis, Debenhams and We have used social media to build a good fan base and tap into the younger market.

In 2015 we will focus on the UK and other key markets where we have recently launched, such as Australia, Germany and France.

Mark Aldridge
Group marketing director of Jacques Vert Group, winner of Fashion Marketing Campaign of the Year

In August we sold lots of coats due to a big PR effort during our charity Coatwalk event. Black Friday and the following weekend were, however, the biggest Sales days in the company’s history. We offered up to 50% off and, while we might not have hit margin, we were very pleased with the like-for-like sales.

We have also invested in our website and we believe it is much better for our customers to have a single transactional website bringing together the seven brands in our group. We have seen a huge increase in the number of women aged 50-plus using tablets to access our websites.

Jason Gerrard
Co-owner of Without Prejudice, winner of Menswear Brand of the Year

When we set up the company we were looking to challenge established brands like Moss Bros, Ted Baker and Paul Smith. We trusted that the consumer would want to move away from mass-produced garments and search out quality. Our success is driven by repeat business. We work with 65 independents, as well as larger multiples like House of Fraser.

There is a tremendous opportunity to bring exciting new product to a younger consumer. The generation of 18- to 20-year-olds are looking for something new, moving out of the recession with a sense of optimism. Quality, integrity and experience are key. Niche brands that cater for consumers looking for something new and interesting can still succeed.

Simon Carter
Menswear designer, Drapers Awards 2014 judge and Menswear Brand 2013 winner

2014 was a good year for us. We opened a new shop in Brighton, taking our total to seven stores. The high street is reinventing and there is room for smart players that can also embrace online.

I think retailers will rue Black Friday. It is a mistake as you can only have your slice of cake once - either before Christmas or after, not both. 2015 will be about identity and focus. Customers are fickle and they need to find something inventive to keep them visiting your store.

This year may also be challenging as a correction in the housing market could impact on consumer confidence.

David Carter-Johnson
Chairman of My Beautiful City, retail and strategic consultant for menswear brand Luke, Drapers Awards 2014 judge

Luke offered 20% off on Black Friday and then went back to full-price on Saturday, which generated an amazing response. In one day our like-for-like sales grew 20%. Sales like Black Friday are good in moderation.

Stephanie Barlow & Sarah Wilkinson, Bonmarché
Holly Gordon-Gibson & Katriye Mehmet,
Hannah Houston & Steve Hudson, Curvy Kate
Alison Levy & Paul Richards, Fashion GPS
Rachel Engel & Tristan Haddow, Haddow Group
Nick Bubb, independent retail analyst
Sandra McDill & Britt Soeder, iProspect
Mark Aldridge & Laura Harvey, Jacques Vert Group
Kate Holt & Shailina Parti, Jigsaw
Laura Emsell & Alicia O’Brien, John Lewis
Howard Klepper, Karpelle
Leora Graham & Steffi Lang, Lipsy
David Carter-Johnson, My Beautiful City
Sarah Morgan, Phoenix Fashion (Marc Cain); Helena Abela, Task PR (Marc Cain)
Simon Carter, Simon Carter
Alex Foley & Jason Gerrard, Without Prejudice
From Drapers:
John Emmerson, Tara Hounslea, James Knowles, Eric Musgrave, Charlotte Rogers & Luke Todd

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