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Cautiously optimistic buyers arrive at Moda

The usual turnout of reliable independents marked the first day of the 27th edition of Moda at the NEC Birmingham on February 15, with brands reporting steady if unspectacular business.

Reflecting trends already seen at other domestic shows, the mainstream event saw independent retailers buying cautiously, preferring to back solid favourites that offer a decent margin and good back-up service.

“Cautiously optimistic” was the most positive assessment for 2015 from visitors and exhibitors across all sections of Moda, which encompasses more than 1,450 brands across womenswear, menswear, accessories, footwear and lingerie.

Well laid-out and easy to work as usual, the event attracted a good selection of Irish buyers, thanks to organiser ITE Exhibitions subsidising their travel costs. Several brands reported that new accounts on the lookout for suppliers were often ecommerce start-ups.

“Lingerie independents know where they are these days and, for the well-run ones, business is steady,” said Peter Cronin, sales and marketing director for lingerie brands Charnos and Lepel.

Jessica Archer, brand manager at plus-size womenswear brand Elvi, which is showing at Moda for the first time following a rebranding under its new ownership, said overall buyers fell into two categories: “people who are really decisive and ordering, and others who aren’t sure”.

Despite cautious buying, few reported a dip in footfall against previous seasons.

Jonathan Cox, sales manager at men’s footwear brand Chatham, said: “So far, Moda has been better than last year, as we have opened new accounts and got new orders from some small independents.”

Cristina Kehoe, general manager for German womenswear brand Steilmann, said: “It’s been a really manic morning, much better than expected in terms of footfall. We were expecting it to be quiet; there has been a feeling of caution in the current selling season.”

Dev Sachdev, managing director of mainstream womenswear brand Adini, linked the cautious buying to the upcoming election: “You might see smaller buys and in-season stock buying. Our brand has a following, so if we are consistent, up-to-date and modern, we will be fine.”

Peter Cronin, sales and marketing director at lingerie firm LF Intimates, which owns Charnos and Lepel brands, said: “It seems like the independents have reached a plateau now: they are managing their businesses by being careful, perhaps a little too careful in my book, but doing it well. In the last two years, we have seen approximately 70 accounts close and probably just 20 new ones.”

The rise in Irish trade was noticed by both managing director of menswear brand Luke, Simon Poole, and key account manager for Aigle, Daniel Cook.

“We’ve seen a fair few Irish buyers and they’re a lot more confident in their buying than previously,” said Cook.

The need for high margin and the fallout from the unseasonable weather last autumn, however, remained firmly in the mind of buyers in attendance.

Victre Han, owner of men’s and womenswear independent Spirit, which has four stores in Essex, said: “I’m looking for products I can get a good margin on, because that’s what you need these days. My customers are very name-driven, so I need stuff with the branding on it.”

Neil Raven, managing director of department store Ravens of Southend, said: “We are slightly cautious for the autumn season based on the weather we had, although we still managed to grow. We have to take a bit of a risk to ensure we have something different.”

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