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Editor's Comment: There are still gains to be made in womenswear

Keely Stocker

Womenswear is a tough market to be in right now, and the difficulties faced by some high street players – most recently East and New Look – underline the importance of having a clearly defined proposition.

Reports of store closures have dogged New Look, and buyers are said to be circling the troubled business. It has cancelled potentially costly plans to relocate its London headquarters, and its latest trading update brings worse news: like-for-like UK sales dropped 10.7% in the 39 weeks to 23 December after it got trapped in a downwards discounting spiral.

Executive chairman Alistair McGeorge has said he is confident the retailer can recover. However – perhaps with the exception of its impressive footwear range – New Look has all but lost its unique appeal to the customer. Numerous fast fashion players, such as Asos and Boohoo, have a much fresher and more targeted offer. 

Last week, Drapers partnered with The Fashion Network in Manchester to host a directors’ dinner, which included a Q&A with Asos co-founder Nick Robertson. Looking back at the retailer’s phenomenal success over the past 18 years, he described the difficult task it faced along the way in getting the product right and streamlining the strategy to have a clear focus on its target customer. New Look should take note as it starts down the long road to recovery. 

In our overview of the womenswear market this week, we dig deeper into the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. Women are notoriously less brand loyal than men, and competition for their spend is intense. Versatile, high-quality product and a positive in-store experience are vital.

Although womenswear isn’t easy, there is positive news to be found in this saturated sector. The mood among womenswear buyers at London trade show Scoop, and CIFF and Revolver in Copenhagen, was generally positive: high-quality buyers were seen writing orders. We will take the temperature of the market again at womenswear, menswear and accessories trade show Pure London this weekend – keep an eye out for the coverage next week.


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