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Bread & Butter special: Young fashion sector stays upbeat at B&B show

Currency fluctuations, price volatility and the UK credit squeeze dominated the mood at the opening of streetwear show Bread & Butter in Barcelona.

But the young fashion sector was optimistic it would ride out the recession, which is predicted to last beyond 2009. Despite challenging trading conditions at home, brands and buyers were optimistic, partly because many young fashion retailers had a reasonable Christmas.

While attendance at the show was expected to be lower than last year as the recession bites into travel budgets, on the first day the Denim Hall was packed with international buyers who flocked to see autumn 09 collections.

However, other areas of the show, including Urban Superior and Sport & Street, got off to a quieter start.

The number of brands exhibiting was reduced by 93 this season as part of Bread & Butter’s strategy to focus on bigger brands, and rumours continued to circulate regarding the show’s possible move back to Berlin (see box). A Bread & Butter spokeswoman declined to comment on the speculation.

UK buyers were out in force, although some teams were smaller in number. Buyers at the show on the opening morning included teams from Next and USC. Indies included Watford-based five-store chain Banana Connection and Hip of Leeds.   

Pan Philippou, chief executive of brand house WDT, which was exhibiting Firetrap and Fullcircle, said: “The show provides a group comforting session for the trade, and helps buyers pick up new ideas and crucial tips on how to stay innovative in the current market.”

Most UK brands were using Bread & Butter to drive their international growth strategies. Julian Dunkerton, co-owner of Superdry and founder of retail chain Cult Clothing, said: “We’ve just seen one of the largest Canadian department store groups and we’re expecting US department store Macy’s here later today. In terms of pushing sales on a global scale, Bread & Butter is still essential.”

Sterling fell to a record low against the dollar at US$1.39 earlier this week, and also fell against the euro to 0.92. The impact of currency fluctuations has led to many suppliers facing rising manufacturing costs, causing price fluctuations.

“The biggest issue for us in 2009 is currency,” said Ben Sherman chief executive Miles Gray. “Costs are up and suppliers are limited in terms of how much of that you can pass on in a deflationary market.”

G-Star founder Jos van Tilburg echoed Gray. He said: “The strength of the euro will affect pricing in the UK but every brand, including G-Star, has a responsibility to cushion the effects as much as possible. But there is only so much we can do.”

Independents at the show were reappraising their buying strategies in the face of the changing market conditions. “I’m not here for new product as our mix includes strong brands such as Lacoste and G-Star,” said Banana Connection director Sanj Chauhan. “Although margin was squeezed last year, sales were at their best level ever. In 2009 the internet will be our focus so my buying pattern will have a global perspective.”

Speculation over a return to Berlin

As Drapers went to press, exhibitors at Bread & Butter insisted an announcement from the Barcelonatrade show’s organisers about a move back to Berlinwas imminent.

Show organisers declined to comment to Drapers, but a press conference was due to be held on January 23 on the success of this edition of the fair. Show founder and co-owner Karl-Heinz Müller was also expected to comment on the speculation of a return to its Berlinroots at the press conference.

In recent weeks rumours have persisted that Bread & Butter has been offered a new site in Berlin. However, Müller has gone on record to say a move is not possible because there is no suitable location in the German capital.

But Müller is known for surprising the market. The move to Barcelona alongside the Berlin show in 2005 came out of the blue. The relocation of B&B also reinvigorated the event, helping it to retain its position as the leading fashion trade show in Europe.

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