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Brands devastated as inferno hits Manchester's fashion hub

A huge fire that destroyed several fashion showrooms in Manchester has cost the local fashion industry 'hundreds of thousands of pounds', with many brands unable to salvage stock and forced to relocate.

The fire, on April 30, affected four buildings on Dale Street and Lever Street, destroying one and severely damaging three others where many fashion wholesalers and agents had their offices.

Oui Group, which had a 1,750 sq ft showroom at 22 Lever Street, had to write off £16,000 worth of stock. "It's completely and utterly devastating," said UK sales director Geraldine Bennett. "It has affected my turnover for Christmas. It has held things back by two weeks and I need to get a new collection."

Other wholesalers were less affected, having just finished their selling seasons, but almost all, including Michael H, have been forced to relocate due to the buildings being sealed off for investigation.

Derek Bennett, landlord of 22 Lever Street, which also housed Frank Lyman, Interstyle, Satsuma, Emreco, Chianti and Jensen, pegged the damage at "hundreds of thousands of pounds". He could not say when the building would be rebuilt but hoped tenants would move back in after the refit.

But Geraldine Bennett said that such a move was unlikely. "What's the point in moving out for a year, then moving back in again? I have to look at my long-term stability," she said.

Mark Taylor, an agent for Emreco, Chianti, Frank Lyman and Jensen, lost £10,000 worth of stock and has set up a temporary showroom in an exhibition centre across the road.

"The building was not completely destroyed, but there was a lot of smoke and water damage," he said. "There was also damage to the roof. Luckily we're in between seasons, so if there was ever an OK time for this to happen, this was it."

Independent retailers have felt the after-effects of the fire, with many having to look elsewhere for stock.

Geraldine Bennett said the same cluster of showrooms would be difficult to recreate. She said: "This will make it harder for retailers to do their buying because they will have to travel further afield."

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