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IMC buyers look to trade up

Progressive mainstream menswear independents are looking for more value-added, higher-priced products to distance themselves from the discount-obsessed high street multiples, Drapers has been told.

Better quality fabrics and garments with more obvious design details were in demand at the first day of the IMC buying group’s two-day seasonal show at Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire yesterday (Sunday February 1). The gathering brings together more than 50 suppliers and, as usual, attracted most of the group’s 100 members. Attendees had travelled from as far as northern Scotland and the south coast of England.

While both brands and buyers agreed that 2015 would be another challenging year – mainly due to low footfall on traditional high streets and the economic uncertainty expected until after the May election – there was a general feeling that many of the IMC’s members were well placed to maximise the opportunities at the higher end of the mainstream sector.

“We find we get a lot of customers coming to us for a traditional fit because the multiples and department stores are too obsessed with a slim fit that doesn’t work for a middle-aged man, “ said David Warwick, director of Warwicks of Wellingborough. “People also remark that they appreciate our old-fashion service standards.”

Damian Howard, managing director of tailoring supplier Gurteen, (pictured) was one of several supplies who stressed that his buyers – he sees about 90 of the IMC’s members over the two days – were looking for more added-value details that would set the garments apart from competition on the high street. This manifested itself in touches like contrast under-collars, mis-matched buttons on cuffs, and bold fancy linings.

Anton Jenkins, sales director at Douglas & Grahame, agreed, saying: “Our customer is optimistic; not thriving but optimistic. I get the feeling that people are moving to better quality as they look to differentiate themselves from the multiples.”

The friendly and business-like atmosphere at the event was as strong as ever. As one supplier remarked to Drapers: “It costs only about £500 to £600 to show here and I am confident of coming away with £150,000 of orders from the two days.”

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