A growing number of independent fashion retailers across the UK are taking a more direct approach to buying rather than attending trade shows in a bid to keep down costs.
The shows, where UK indies would traditionally pick up autumn 16 stock, kick off next week with Pitti Uomo in Florence on January 12-15. This is followed by Berlin’s Show & Order, Panorama, Premium and Seek (between January 18 and 21) and then the UK’s Scoop, Jacket Required, Pure, and Moda (between January 31 and February 23).
However, some indies have told Drapers they are moving away from exhibition-style formats, which often require travelling and days out of stores, and are instead building relationships with brands directly.
Matt Horstead, owner of menswear retailer Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex, said: “I’m only going to London Collections Men (January 8-11) and even then it’s not to buy; it’s a bit of a jolly and to get some inspiration.
“My focus instead has been building relationships with the brands I want to stock to get to a point where they come to us or we can go direct to them.”
He added: “The size of my store dictates my buy and I knew in advance of the trade shows that I wanted to freshen up my business with more tailoring. I’ve already picked up Hackett and Aquascutum and I can do more of that without going to shows.”
Premium Merseyside indie OD’s plans to send buyers to Pitti Uomo, Pure and Jacket Required. However, owner Chris O’Dea has also employed a company to produce a brochure for the first time as a way of showcasing the business directly to brands.
“We had the brochure made up for us to send to a wish list of brands we want to stock,” he said. “We’re in the north of England so we can’t always get to the showrooms in London. This way there are no travel costs involved.”
He continued: “You can find the odd gem at shows but they are very few and far between. I can’t tell you the last time I bought something from a trade show. They’re only good in the sense that you get to meet people and it’s social.”
James Jones, director of Doncaster-based premium indie Robinsons of Bawtry, said the business has long avoided trade shows, a “tactic that works very well for us”.
“We only do appointments with the brands we want to stock. Every season we’re maxed out in terms of space with the brands we have and if we were to introduce anything new it would have to be one in, one out, and I can’t think of any we’d want to lose.
“Buying trips to London are expensive enough as it is, and it’s time out of the store, so this helps to keep costs down and be efficient.”