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Demands of big brands hinder indies’ flexibility

Gary Tillott is manager of menswear and womenswear retailer Goddards in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, which is part of the Coes group, and a member of the IMC Buying Group.

After attending the IMC menswear show at Northamptonshire’s Whittlebury Hall in August, I can at last wrap up the spring 15 buying season and return to the shop floor. July and August are hectic and I miss the interaction with customers, especially since customer relationships are central to making Goddards what it is: a destination store that offers what we believe is a unique shopping experience.

Research is key for me in drawing up my buying plan and avoiding any crossovers. I don’t want to impulsively buy a product from one supplier only to visit another stand afterwards and find a superior product. This year I did most of my research at trade shows in Berlin and at Moda in Birmingham, before placing about 75% of my classic menswear orders at the IMC show.

At IMC I have 20 suppliers to see in two days, which is physically impossible, so I take as many notes as possible while I’m at the other trade fairs.
Many retailers I speak to complain about minimums as a major bugbear, but I find that it’s the insistence of some of the large, international brands that you buy into every category in order to “represent the brand” that is the greatest hindrance to our flexibility as an independent. One international brand we carry insists we buy from its leather jackets category each spring, which doesn’t work for us. We buy with the customer in mind and without flexibility in selecting our products it is hard to curate a collection that meets the specific needs of our customer.

I believe bricks-and-mortar stores have come into their own in terms of customer service. There are so many different fits and styles in menswear that it can be hard to shop effectively online. We have slim fit, contemporary fit and classic fit - and that’s just the shirts. Just because you know your size it doesn’t necessarily mean you know which style will fit you.

Most men do not enjoy shopping and want to get the job done as soon as they can. Customers come to us because they trust our judgement and we can point them in the right direction.

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