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Brands unruffled by market woes at IMC

An upbeat mood was in the air as exhibitors’ stands filled with buyers poised to write orders on Sunday 13 August, the first day of the two-day seasonal trade show for the IMC menswear buying group.

The IMC buying group comprises 94 independent businesses running roughly 210 shops across the UK. The two-day show, held at Whittlebury Hall Hotel near Towcester, Northants, is attended by 45 mainstream suppliers.

Matthew Rawlings, IMC committee member and director at department store Coes, said: “It’s been buoyant. I think Brexit uncertainty has settled a bit for both brands and buyers. It was the talk of the show in previous editions, with some putting blanket increases on prices, but now things have smoothed over a bit more.

“From a buyer’s perspective, it made us consider prices in more depth. Meanwhile we’re hopeful that things will pick up for autumn 17, but remaining cautious.”

Casualwear, shirts with bold prints and standalone premium jackets continue to attract the most buyer interest for spring 18.

“The weather’s been kind to us. Coes has had a good spring season – casual shirts and chinos continue to be particularly popular,” said Rawlings.

He added that the IMC, which is the last UK menswear show to take place during the season, is considering whether to bring the show forward next summer. However, the decision remains “restricted” by potential events at its current location, which is located near a racecourse.

Karl Wild, wholesale manager and retail operations at tailoring brand Without Prejudice, said: “We’ve been noticing some changes here and there at the IMC over the past few editions – the quality of brands attending has been reaching new levels, and there are more buyers. It’s been getting bigger.”

Wild added that the label has defied market conditions, to its “surprise”: “Spring 17 has been our best season for a few years. Tailoring is difficult to be in right now, but we’re holding our own.”

Other exhibitors reported a steady and upbeat start to the show, as they continue to tough it out against Brexit uncertainty and the weak pound.

Douglas & Grahame operations manager Mark Mckinley observed: “We’ve been taking orders. This is always a good writing show for us – it’s the last one of the season, but people always hold out for the offers they can get here, even if our production team wants orders in earlier.

“The economic climate has made things tough for everyone, but we’re all just knuckling down and getting on with it. We hope things will pick up for the autumn but you can never tell.”

Tom Uttley, a field brand co-ordinator representing footwear brand Steptronic, said: “I would say this morning was the best edition we’ve attended to date, in terms of the number of accounts we’ve picked up so far.

“Trade is tough at the moment, but things have turned around a bit and are looking better for the autumn now that the pound appears to be more consistent.”

Chris Bower, head of sales at made-to-measure manufacturer The Makers, said the brand is exhibiting at IMC for the first time after it “saw opportunities with the customer base Coes has”.

Bower said: “It’s tough for a lot of people, borne out of market uncertainty and exchange rates, but we have been finding that there is still appetite for tailoring and customised products among independents.”

Many of the IMC’s exhibitors visited Moda in Birmingham and the Copenhagen trade shows last week, as well as London-based menswear show Jacket Required last month.

Ward Mann, agent for Danish lifestyle brand Signal, said: “Moda was a bit quiet, but Copenhagen was really busy – it was fantastic.

“We’ve had a nice start to the show at the IMC, and some good responses. Business out there in the market hasn’t been easy, with Brexit and the financial situation causing people to be more tentative generally, but the mood has been buoyant here.”

David Snowdon, an agent representing Baileys & Giordano, said: “This edition is much more positive than the other trade shows we’ve been to this summer, which were quite slow. A lot of people are writing, and everyone seems upbeat.”

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