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Give your brands a vote of confidence

Bullish, bewildered, cautious, carefree – the mood among independent store buyers at contemporary womenswear (and from next season unisex) trade fair Pure was mixed this week.

All perfectly understandable, of course – your trading fortunes over the past season will be defined by your position in the marketplace and will shape the way you’re feeling right now. Young fashion is holding up as is premium, while much of what’s in between is under considerable pressure; this much we already knew.

But having talked to some of the most seasoned buyers whose businesses have survived not just slumps but, in some cases, floods, fires and world wars, one thing that all buyers should feel is confident. It may be the case that trading is down, your budget is reduced or more is held back for in-season buying, but you can and indeed should still make strong statements with your buy when the chips are down.

Now is the time to really pin down what your business stands for and who your customer is and firmly nail your colours (and there are lots of those to choose from for spring 09) to the mast. Chasing the high street and obsessing about trends is not the way to go. “If brands work for you, buy into them deeply, trust their point of view and don’t start looking for things that aren’t there,” advised one retailer.

The point about trusting your brands is an interesting one, and there is evidence to suggest – for instance, a poll on which currently shows 67% of retailers agreeing that brands are tempting more shoppers than own labels right now – that that’s exactly what your customers are doing.

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