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Indies reject new labels but bet on colour  

As the buying season draws to a close, indies are focusing on freshening up their stores with colour rather than new brands.

It’s no secret that the bad weather and sluggish economy have conspired against retailers this year, and are squeezing indies’ budgets across the board.

Following on from Drapers’ previous reports on the matter, it’s now clear just how that is playing out in buying patterns. One of the most telling trends to have emerged is indies’ rejection of untested waters, as they appear to be neglecting new brands for spring 13, preferring instead to stick with those they know will sell.

Findings based on a sample of 14 menswear and womenswear stores in both the contemporary and premium ends of the market suggest retailers are playing it safe when it comes to next spring’s stock – the vast majority say they have not taken on any new brands.

“It is so tough out there at the moment that I want to know that what I buy is going to sell,” says one premium womenswear indie. “This summer has been really tough because of the weather so I just can’t afford to be taking risks with unknown brands. As much as I would like to be able to take on one or two new brands, because I have seen a couple of good ones, now isn’t the right time to be doing it – instead, I tend to go with the classic brands that I know my customers like.”

The owner of a menswear indie adds: “This season wasn’t great for us so I’ve been very careful when doing my buying for next year and I haven’t wanted to invest in anything untested.”

This strategy is mostly reactive – of the indies surveyed by Drapers, half said they had reduced their spend and only one indie had more money to play with.

Diane Bardon, owner of Chiswick contemporary womenswear indie DeJoli, has been forced to cut her budget for next season because of this summer’s disappointing sales.

“I am trying to be optimistic but my budget for spring is definitely lower because a lot of summer stock has been a washout this year,” she says.

The tightening of budgets and the degree to which weather has affected consumer behaviour is also feeding into the type of product being bought.

Both menswear and womenswear retailers reported buying less high-summer product next season, instead making a conscious effort to acquire more trans-seasonal items. Of the indies spoken to by Drapers, two thirds said they were making an effort to buy more trans-seasonal product for spring 13.

But while stockists are moving away from high-summer styles, colour continues to be king, with aggressive neons, citrus tones and pastel shades set to dominate clothing rails next year. Of the indies surveyed, bright colour was the key spring 13 trend they were backing.

Back in March, when Drapers visited textile trade show Première Vision, shining neons and fluorescent pastels were the standout textile trend for spring 13, and indies are clearly hoping to capitalise on this.

Caroline Lait, owner of premium womenswear indie Boutique 3 in Cheltenham, says she is backing bright colours, especially when it comes to denim. “I’ve bought into bright coloured jeans again this season, particularly red, pink and citrus tones.”

Tamsin Straiton, buyer at contemporary womenswear indie Pollys in Leicester, is going for a similar approach. “We have brought in a new jeans brand to encourage less of the leggings and more of the jeans and top look,” she says. “We are still going for bright colours though, especially fresh pinks and reds.”

And it is not just in womenswear that buyers are backing colour. Menswear indies are similarly enthusiastic about bright shades being the trend to back for spring 13.

John Lowndes, director of men’s and women’s young fashion indie Blue Jeans Trading Co in Haverfordwest, Wales, says red is a key colour in his buy for next season across both genders – as does Kevin Moore, owner of contemporary menswear indie Muse in Sunningdale, Berkshire.

“We are going for bright colours and we will be using the colour red a lot,” says Moore. “Chinos and bright colours are always a safe bet for spring.”

In terms of style, indies are backing chinos for menswear and denim in womenswear, both of which are a vehicle for capitalising on the trend for bright colour.

According to Drapers fashion director Ian Wright, the colour palette has been “supercharged” for spring 13, but he notes that it is an evolution from spring 12 trends rather than a revolutionary move.

“There are no real surprises in silhouette and the colour and pattern are, thankfully, left to do the talking,” he says.

“Womenswear has seen prints lose structure and become more abstract and colour get supercharged as last spring’s trends get an update – even if there’s an absence of anything genuinely new.”

Story in Numbers

71% of indies say they have invested in bright colours for spring 13

57% of indies say their buying budget is down compared with spring 12

35% of indies say their buying budget is the same as spring 12

64% of indies say they are buying more trans-seasonal product for spring 13

78% of indies say they haven’t bought any new brands for next season

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