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Bleak forecast is ‘crisis’ for fashion

Further fashion administrations are expected this year, with a bleak outlook for retail exacerbated by the recent drizzly weather and weak consumer spending.

A report published by The Centre for Retail Research this week stated that more than a fifth of British shops will close down over the next five years. It claimed the total number of shops in the UK would drop 22% from 281,930 currently to 220,000 in 2018.

The centre blamed a switch to online as well as dampened consumer spend for what it dubbed a “crisis”.

A further blow was delivered by The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s monthly Distributive Trades Survey, which reported retail sales had fallen at their fastest rate for more than a year in May. Volume sales across clothing retailers dropped 21%, while footwear sales fell 11%.

The sales decline was not just limited to retailers, with clothing, textile and footwear wholesalers registering a 23% drop.

Chris Roche, owner of young fashion indie Ciren Jeans in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, described the situation on the high street as “desperate”.

“We’re not planning on going on Sale early, although our main worry is that etailers will. I’ve already started to see the big etailers discounting heavily, and that’s something brands need to look at if they want to keep their indies onside.”

One agent told Drapers he was “hearing horror stories” from the high street. “Rent quarter day is coming up and I think you’re going to see a lot of retailers falling away, as the landlords will get them.”

Nick Hood, business risk analyst at financial research firm Company Watch, said there was “little doubt” more administrations loomed within the fashion sector.

“If there is a retail recovery, fashion will be slower out of the blocks. The die is cast for companies this year,” said Hood. “They’ve had the wrong sort of clothes for the weather and it’s difficult to recover from this.

“It’s pretty hard getting your collections right when it’s midwinter in spring and spring in winter. Fashion has been the big loser.”

The warmer weather over the bank holiday weekend did provide a short-lived boost.

Luke Conod, managing director of Hereford young fashion indie Fit, said: “The weekend was the best it’s been for a while, but it’s been a tough start to the year.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • darren hoggett

    Will retailers in the U.K ever learn? The weather in this country has been getting worse and more unpredictable for years - and will almost certainly continue that way. What do retailers due in the light of this?

    Nothing. They stick to the rigid format of selling summer items in the summer and winter items in the winter. You cannot run a business like this anymore!!!

    Essentially, you must sell winter and summer items all year round if you want to survive and prosper. That is what the customer wants. The perennial excuses given by shops they that only stock seasonal items is something that the consumer does not want to hear.

    This seasons best sellers have been knitwear, coats, hoodies, sweats - all heavier items. The fact that it is in the Spring/Summer season is completely irrelevant. The seasons in the traditional sense are finished. It's one big season - all the year round.

    Give the customer what they want when they want it, because of you don't, they'll be other stores that will.

    Darren Hoggett
    Co-Owner J&B Menswear Limited/Norwich

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  • I completely agree with Darren Hoggett.
    As a design and business growth consultant with experience in retail, production and trade shows, the issues brands and retailers have are crystal clear!
    I urge them to recognise that clothing must be trans-seasonal in line with the permanent climate change we have. Consumers have accepted that they need to wear layers and have a flexible wardrobe. All the more business reason to design and produce more flexible clothing, which can be co-ordinated with existing items. Trade show organisers also need to be mindful and change the seasonal labelling of events. Large manufacturers and retailers need to lead the way now.

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