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Decade’s end brings fresh challenges

What will you remember about fashion in the noughties? The tiered gypsy skirt, the poncho, skinny jeans, slim-fit suits, slogan T-shirts, Ugg boots, the ‘It’ bag?

Or will it be the rise of the influence of celebrity, and the likes of David and Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole, who are as well known for their grooming and clothes horse abilities as they are for their talent for kicking a ball or singing. Certainly, supermodel Kate Moss has defined this decade, rocking all of the key trends and then turning designer herself with Topshop.

Fortunately for our sector, the advent of the internet and of weekly fashion glossies such as Look and Grazia plugged shoppers right into all the must-have looks. With this came the birth of the fast-fashion model which now virtually dominates the UK high street. Meanwhile, value operators like Primark exploded into the consumer psyche.

By the end of 2010, Verdict Research estimates the clothing market (excluding footwear) will be worth £35.6bn, up more than 36% from its £26.4bn value at the millennium. Womenswear will have grown more than 40% to £19.3bn. We’re all buying more, but it’s important to remember this is at much lower prices than in the 1990s.

Looking ahead, while Christmas trade has been acceptable so far, 2010 will ring in more severe pressures, including inflationary ones. But the sector cannot afford to put prices up when consumer confidence remains so fragile, so next year will be about core trading disciplines – sweating stock and working even closer with the supply base. Good luck.

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