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Cautious confidence at spring 14 shows

With the last of the womenswear trade shows having kicked off this weekend, it’s becoming clearer that a mood of what one exhibitor called “confidence with a small ‘c’” is emerging.

Several brands at Moda yesterday (August 11) reported a drop in footfall, but said this had allowed room for solid business to take place.

A large proportion of that positivity may be down to the better weather of late, which means that buyers at Scoop, Pure and Moda have all been in the mood to buy, with brands reporting a sense that at long last, a corner has been turned.

“There has been a change in attitude,” says Noreen Puri, brand director at Pomodoro. “Buyers are still playing it safe with what they are buying – they are still a bit cautious about trying new things – but they are not scared to spend money. People are in a good mood.”

Frank Saul’s managing director Daniel Saul did not mince his words. “It’s been shit up until now,” he tells Drapers. “They had a difficult Q3 and Q4 last year, and a difficult Q1 this year. Q3 has been better, which means they are more chirpy now.”

Anne O’Dowd, UK distributor for Ronen Chen, says buyers are “still cautious, and keeping buying light”. But, she adds, the brand has picked up several new accounts at both Pure and Moda so far.

This cautious optimism has been echoed across all the trade shows Drapers has attended so far this season, and the economic data suggests there are good reasons for people to feel more positive - although no one is looking to tempt fate by placing large orders or backing bold new trends. One brand I spoke to noted that pre-recession spend-per-buyer would regularly top £10,000 but the norm now was that spend rarely went above £3,000.

The demand for colour and prints has been universal, but it is also about versatility and value for money, as both buyers and consumers look to maximise on their investment.

There was no real consensus on which of the trade shows had been most successful, however.

O’Dowd noted that Pure had been “the quietest I’ve ever seen” but said there had been an uptick in business from the “strong businesses that have survived”.

Others such as Kelly & Hepburn Hepburn noted that Moda was “quieter” for them.

Steve Osborne, sales manager of Duke Clothing, says: “It’s not as busy as previous seasons but we can’t complain. Traffic may be less but we had a lot of pre bookings with big accounts before the show.”

Allan Bulloch, sales agent for footwear brand Tamaris, adds: “It hasn’t been as busy as usual to be honest. The good weather in the last few weeks has helped but for many it came too late as they had already discounted prices.”

Another exhibitor told Drapers Scoop had been “a disaster” because of the decision to split the event over two locations. “I think that might have been the nail in the coffin for Scoop, which is a shame because it was really building steam,” she says.

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