Since embarking on my career some 30 years ago as an agent in the UK and Republic of Ireland, I have been out in the field almost daily, gaining a good feel for my clients.
Right now, I sense fear. Retailers are worried and nervous. No surprise there; overheads and rents are high, rates are huge and meanwhile the men and women we have been serving for years want to see their next spring collection on the hangers.
Shopping bags, however, remain folded and empty.
During the past 10 years I have been astonished at how many new shops have opened up and how many huge shopping centres have been built. Can all that retail space possibly be justified?
Has there been a proportionate rise in the population or an increase in the per capita income? I dare say the answer is no to both.
The only ones who benefit from all of this are the building contractors and landlords.
For all of us in the business, the consumer has always been king or queen and will remain so. But how can we serve our customers if the landlords are tying our hands?
Retailers would happily hand out discounts to cut their stock levels while giving their customers a break, but the only break around is the one which landlords are enjoying on the beaches of Marbella.
My wish for 2009, therefore, is a bit of luxury for all of us. Let the landlords give retailers a break in their rents, let the overheads come down, let the shoppers buy their new dresses at a discounted price and let all of us celebrate a healthier economy together (in new clothes) on the beaches of Marbella.
- Alice Laufer is PR and agent for designer womenswear label Isabel de Pedro and footwear brand Chie Mihara