As the trade show season continues, the Drapers team decamped to Pure last Sunday. I have been to many editions of the show during my nearly 11 years at Drapers, and this season was one of the most positive.
The new menswear section greeted visitors as they entered Olympia London. While this obviously pleased the newcomers, some questioned why it was given such a prominent slot at the front of a predominantly womenswear show. However, it succeeded in showing visitors that this edition of Pure was different. Putting menswear further back would have resulted in it being lost in a sea of womenswear.
Another factor that gave Pure a new edge was the huge and striking backdrop, designed in collaboration with artist Rudolf Hunn, and use of a DJ. Although I imagine the latter could have become irritating to the stands alongside it over the course of three days, it added to the show’s atmosphere. These small but noticeable changes (which also included the introduction of a black carpet) showed Pure is listening to its visitors and evolving, trying new decorative and product changes to give it a sense of excitement and newness each season.
Aesthetic changes aside, the overall reaction to Pure was positive because so much business was done. Brands and buyers Drapers spoke to on the first and second days of the show said orders had been written and new contacts made.
The introduction of menswear prompted some brands to show at Pure instead of Birmingham’s Moda in their quest to find new southern and international customers. It will be interesting to see if this has had a knock-on impact on Moda this weekend. I will report back on that next week.
As I said in my column last week, the trade shows that have stood out so far this season had three things: a point of difference, a great atmosphere and an ability to create a place of business – where trade happens.
Looking across to the high street this week, positivity comes somewhat surprisingly from BHS. As part of its turnaround plan, BHS has hired financial services firm KPMG to help cut the rent bill on more than 30 of its 167 stores and this week it secured a loan from a subsidiary of Gordon Brothers against its Cribbs Causeway store in Bristol. Although this loan is said to support BHS’s plans to roll out its food business, the retailer has also hired House of Fraser’s brand marketing director, Tony Holdway, as marketing and creative director to work on a fashion-focused marketing campaign.
When Sir Philip Green sold the British department store chain for just £1 to a little-known consortium called Retail Acquisitions many thought its days were numbered. However, Retail Acquisitions is persevering with its turnaround plans and the business is managing to secure loans, as well as hire people to support the changes.
However, BHS’s ultimate challenge is going to be to change customer perceptions of the brand and move away from its reliance on the “grey pound”. To say it needs a refresh is an understatement and, if BHS cannot depend on the introduction of the food business to secure its fashion future, it must show it is serious about its fashion offer, too. Product must be strong and the target audience nailed to turn BHS into a success story.