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Brand aid

Tough trading has led to some brands introducing new systems to improve sell-throughs for stockists. Drapers asked three suppliers how they are helping stockists as the recession bites

JASON SCOTT CO-OWNER, BROOK TAVERNER

  • Brand Brook Taverner
  • Stockists More than 1,000

What services are you offering retailers to help support them through the recession? We launched a buy one, get one free suit promotion at the end of February,
which applies to our mail-order customers as well as being available in our top 50 recommended retailers. The response has been overwhelming. Retailers have really got behind the offer with window displays, adverts and leaflet distribution. Retailers are grateful for the support and some have said it has made a difference, with their department showing an increase on last year. We also operate probably the most comprehensive stock service programme in the country. It comprises mix and match suits, sports jackets, trousers, outerwear and formalwear. At any one time, we have about 300,000 garments in stock, in 73 styles and 150 colour options.

How are you adjusting your pricing? In common with all suppliers, we have been affected by the weakening of sterling. This resulted in small price increases across some stock service lines. These are the first price increases since 2000.

How are you making sure your business remains healthy? We are fortunate that our business includes corporatewear and fabrics as well as our retail operation. The retail business has come a long way in the past nine years. We have developed a thriving concessions and mail-order business which runs alongside our wholesale arm. This month will see our new website go live. Retailing products such as ours online is a challenge, but we believe we have got the right recipe for success.

For how long do you think this recession will last? Is there a recession? Our business has not been affected by the credit crunch. Sales are up on last year and our forward sales are level with our expectations - that being the same as 2008. We are lucky to have four routes to market and that our older end customer has less financial commitments, therefore the recession has less impact. When will there be a recovery? When companies stop being greedy, over-extending themselves and stick to what they know and what they’re good at.

What can retailers do to help suppliers? All suppliers need retailers to retain their confidence and continue to place orders and reorders. We also believe it is important to support our top customers, which is something we are currently doing. Our mail-order operation offers the consumer the opportunity to visit one of 50 of our top customers to try on the garments for fit and to feel the fabric. Our mail-order business has delivered new customers to these retailers, which has resulted in extra sales being achieved and hopefully in the process they will have gained a new, loyal customer. Currently, we only have 50 retailers in the programme, but we are happy to add more as long as they meet our criteria for inclusion.

As a brand, what research are you conducting into how consumers will respond to the economic situation? We have developed a very clear picture of our target customer from online data capture. This has enabled us to fine-tune our offer accordingly. We also undertook very detailed quantitative and qualitative research before starting the website development.

Do you have credit insurance? We don’t believe in credit insurance. What we do believe in are regular visits from our representatives. Backed up by a very efficient credit control team, they are better than any credit insurance.

MARK FAULKNER MANAGING DIRECTOR, IC COMPANYS

  • Brands Jackpot, Part Two, InWear, Matinique, Soaked in Luxury and Cottonfields. The group has a portfolio of 13 brands.
  • Stockists 500

What services are you offering to retailers to help support them through the recession? We ensure that we always adopt policies to suit the retailers and the type of product they are selling. We want to keep excitement for the product alive but we need to be aware of the price architecture for all of our six main brands. The most important thing we can do is place the right brands in the right shops. We need a combination of all these elements to support the retailer.

How are you adjusting your pricing? As we are a Danish company we deal in krone, so we have had to cope with a weakening in competitiveness. We have had to take a hit on margin.

How are you making sure your business remains healthy? The company is going to have to think more like the retailers, making sure we have the right retail concepts. For spring 10 we plan to develop new looks for our shops. Also, we are continually supporting the market. We make sure we are always going to trade shows and showcasing the brands. This is such a critical thing to do.

For how long do you think this recession will last? Although things are bad, I predict that the market will pick up next spring. We are stable as a large company but this recession is sorting out who the weaker companies are.

What can retailers do to help suppliers? Retailers can try to work as closely with us as they can to make their stores as strong as possible. They must always strive to give the right brands the right showcase. Brands need to start thinking like this as well. They need to start thinking about how best to showcase themselves and which are the right retailers for them.

As a brand, what research are you conducting into how consumers will respond to the economic situation? We can analyse the information flowed into us instead of actually carrying out our own market research. It is worth knowing your local area as well as your local market. It is important to organise your business around the facts.

IAN BAILEY HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL SALES, CAT FOOTWEAR

  • Brand CAT Footwear
  • Stockists 250

What services are you offering to retailers to help support them through the recession? We are navigating unknown territory and right now the only way we can find a solution is to work with suppliers and stockists. Traditionally, most of the budget was being spent above the line but it is now being redirected to the point of sale in stores in the form of ideas such as promotions, incentives with staff, and for consumer gifts with purchases. Stores will help promote the brand. We are cutting back on trade shows like Bread & Butter. We didn’t go to the last one and won’t be at the next. We are focusing on promoting the brand to consumers rather than buyers.

How are you adjusting your pricing? Prices are staying about the same, but wherever we can we do promotions if there is a big enough margin. We are about to face a whole new world of pricing. Most suppliers are buying in dollars and then having to sell in pounds, and with the way the exchange rate is going this means prices will only go up.

How are you making sure your business remains healthy? We are looking at all our costs. We are still setting aside money for marketing but are cutting back wherever we can. These cutbacks have been in travel and entertainment. We are a US-based company with a European office so we used to spend a lot of money travelling across the Atlantic for meetings. Our video conferencing machine has never been so busy.

For how long do you think this recession will last? I think things will get worse in the short term and we will see more casualties into 2010. It will be after 2010 before things pick up, in the UK at least.

What can retailers do to help suppliers? Retailers and suppliers need to work more closely with each other and think about doing business in a different way.

As a brand, what research are you conducting into how consumers will respond to the economic situation? We haven’t done any research other than sharing opinions on the situation.

Do you have credit insurance? We do have credit insurance but it has been harder with some customers than others. Depending on who that customer is, we try to sort something out with them.

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