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Five of the best retailer insights from 2016

Some of the top names in retail aired their thoughts in Drapers on the big issues of this year in our Retailer Insight series. Here is what set the industry buzzing in 2016.

Anthony Thompson, CEO, Fat Face

Anthony Thompson Fat Face

Anthony Thompson Fat Face

Anthony Thompson Fat Face

Fat Face’s Anthony Thompson railed against the so-called discounting virus over the summer, cautioning that the high-street’s increasing propensity for deep discounting could make “zombie retailers out of all of us”. He called for strong leadership, investment in new talent and product innovation to fight back against the discounting disease.

“The real problem is that we have all started to look the same. A vibrant clothing market provides real choice for customers, not rail upon rail of “me too” product, dumbed down by margin pressure and discount,” he said. “The UK customer deserves better and, given that we have some of the best brands in the world on our high streets, I am sure that, with a bit of courage and less focus on short-term results, we could reverse the cycle of discount we seem trapped in as an industry.” 

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Ed Connolly

Ed Connolly

Ed Connolly

The importance of product was also a key message from John Lewis’ fashion and beauty buying director Ed Connolly, who spoke of the importance of evolving product based on ever changing consumer desires. Rapidly changing shopping habits, with see now buy now, ecommerce and seasonal shifts all representing major challenges for retail’s evolution.

“The way customers are shopping is changing,” he said. “The good news is that fashion retains a debenture in UK customer’s psyche. Brands and retailers that innovate, and embrace the changing landscape, will continue to prosper.”

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Peter Ruis

Peter Ruis

Peter Ruis, chief executive, Jigsaw

The evolving fashion landscape was something Jigsaw CEO, Peter Ruis, also addresses – as the brand unveiled their first see-now-buy now collection at London Fashion Week in September.

But far from struggling to adapt to the shifting consumer, Ruis revealed the new format actually played into their hands and again stressed the importance of quality product: “In a world where we have so much more to do as a brand, driven by globalisation of markets and rampant ecommerce, “see now, buy now” alleviates a huge amount of process and complexity,” he said. “Brands like us – and, of course, Burberry and Ralph Lauren – are driven by a direct retail model through our own stores, websites and concessions.

“For Jigsaw, it ensures there is no “fluff and filler” – bespoke pieces that never find their way to the consumer as their predicted sell-through may be too low – on the catwalk. Everything is now a “commitment” and much better for it, as the impact has to be created with confidence and certainty, not just a nod to a press call-out.”

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mark henderson

mark henderson

In the wake of June’s Brexit vote, Mark Henderson, chairman of Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes, set out the possibilities that could be seized, and the cautions that must be considered in a suddenly uncertain retail environment.

“The UK has always been a key destination on the itineraries of travellers’ from outside the EU looking to purchase high-end fashion, but Britain is now more desirable than ever thanks to the weakened pound,” he said. “We, as retailers, have a unique opportunity to capture this inbound market and reinvigorate our British luxury offering so it remains strong beyond Brexit.”

“We must be aware that despite the short-term benefits of Brexit, our industry is at the hands of the negotiations of the British government with our trade partners. As a collective, we need to be realistic about Brexit’s future impact and work together to ensure British luxury remains a priority for the UK as a key economic driver.”

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Angela spindler

Angela spindler

Far from concerns over Brexit, Angela Spindler, chief executive of N Brown group, took the conversation to product once more, but from a slightly different angle. She spoke about Jacamo’s “real men” campaign, which sought to cast and everyday man as the face of the label.

“Our business is based on a desire to make fashion accessible and relevant to people the fashion industry has perhaps alienated – often those with larger, more “challenging” body shapes,” she said. “Realistically, there are not that many people who are super-skinny or ripped, and we want to show it is OK to enjoy fashion and have fun with it, regardless of size.”

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