When we asked retailers at the end of last year for their predictions for 2018, there were a few recurring themes: uncertainty around Brexit, the importance of product and the increasing need to offer exceptional customer service.
There was also the less positive forecast that 2018 will bring more casualties in the fashion industry, and unfortunately we’re already seeing evidence of this.
Of course, January is traditionally a tough time for fashion. As Skechers managing director Peter Youell pointed out in our predictions, a successful end-of-year trading period is the make or break for many. Sadly, this appears to have been true for womenswear retailer East, which collapsed into administration again this week, blaming tough trading – despite reporting a rise in like-for-likes over Christmas.
Juice Corporation, the owner of brands such as Gabicci, Joe Bloggs and Elizabeth Emanuel, has also initiated insolvency proceedings.
And it is not just clothing retailers that have succumbed: it emerged this week that JD Sports is taking steps to close its once-popular footwear business Cloggs. Ex-managing director Chris Thomas tweeted thoughts that I imagine will be echoed by many in the industry: “Very sad to see my former business end its journey like this. It’s produced many fine staff and memories over the years, very proud still to have started it all. Ecommerce and retail is an unforgiving place. It’s survival of the fittest.”
I feel for those who have lost their jobs as a result of these closures, especially as it comes against a backdrop of redundancies across the fashion retail landscape, from Arcadia Group to Pentland Brands and House of Fraser.
None of this is easy, but difficult decisions may be the only way to keep the high street alive. It is important to restructure and adapt to changing shopping patterns.
However, there is only so much individual businesses can do: we must also look to the government to help.
A report by business services firm EY, published this week, found that rising costs and unsteady consumer confidence contributed to an increase in profit warnings and insolvencies last year. In response, the Treasury Select Committee has called on the government to provide more assistance to retailers, and Drapers wholeheartedly backs this call.
The fashion industry is resilient, but this week has shown that it needs help to survive the challenges ahead.