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David Reiss: ‘Business has never been better'

2015 is the most exciting time for fashion retail for the past 40 years, according to the founder of premium men’s and womenswear retailer Reiss.

Speaking as part of a panel co-hosted by Drapers and real estate advisor CBRE, David Reiss revealed a bullish attitude towards business in 2015, a period that has seen his retailer achieve double digit like-for-like growth.

“Business has never been better and I would say this is the most exciting time to be in the industry for the past 40 years,” said Reiss. “Everyone worldwide is upgrading in their store portfolio and we’re looking at global opportunities for new stores, as well as other UK locations.

“Outside London, our brand is successful in big regional cities like Leeds, Durham and Manchester. I also like to create destination stores in regional and metropolitan areas. For example, within London our neighbourhood stores in Richmond, Hampstead and Kingston are performing well.”

Reiss confirmed the company is looking at smaller stores than its current average of 2,700-3,000 sq ft, as it focuses on getting the right location and store design.

Alongside Reiss on the panel were Oliver Spencer, founder of the eponymous brand, and Roger Holmes, partner at private equity firm Change Capital Partners

Spencer, who has seven London stores, crediting London Collections: Men with creating a “wonderful environment” for British menswear, which has spawned numerous export opportunities.

He added: “UK designers are great storytellers. When opening a store finding the right brand adjacencies is crucial, which we found when opening our store on London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street.

“I advise other retailers to choose streets carefully and target the local community. Starting with a pop up can be a good part of the story.

“My advice for any new business would be to open your shop door and concentrate on full mark-up, cash flow and choosing your partner carefully. The store is your window to the world and your lab to test what customers like. The website can follow.”

Internationally, Spencer identified Toronto and Melbourne as promising areas for retail expansion.

Brands with international expansion plans are particularly attractive for private investment, confirmed Holmes.

But he warned: “Fashion needs to balance commerciality and creativity. People wanting to invest in British brands are looking for something that’s real and authentic, but being British is not enough; you need to have a story to tell.”

Reiss aims to position itself internationally as a modern British brand and is bringing more production back to its UK roots, such as having its suits cut on Savile Row.  

Spencer said he enjoys collaborating with mills in Lancashire, although he does not make in the UK simply for the sake of it: “I only manufacture in the UK if this means I can create the best product available. Most of the factories in the UK are underinvested, but the niche mills that are left have never been busier.”

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