Independent retailers are setting aside a bigger chunk of their budgets for buying in season, in a bid to become more reactive to changing weather and tastes.
It follows a challenging 2016, when many independents struggled with unpredictable weather patterns, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and generally sluggish trading at times.
Department store One Forty in Cranleigh, Surrey, is keeping back 20% of its budget for in season and using the rest for forward order.
“This is the first time we are keeping budget for in season so we can try to find brands that are cheaper and something a bit different,” said retail manager Fanny Newman.
“We over-bought last season, so we are going to cut down on brands and on our budget by about 10%. We want to buy better and smaller.”
Debra McCann, owner of London men’s and women’s wear independent The Mercantile, agreed: “I’m doing less forward order and keeping more budget for in season so we can react to what’s happening.
“By doing this I can manipulate the budget to make sure we’re not over-stretched. It’s easier to pick up stock than be too heavy.”
Berties Clothing in Northampton already leaves aside “a lot” for in-season buying.
Owner Leonie Howe told Drapers: “Last year was our best ever in 24 years and we did around an extra 10% in season for both spring and autumn, so we are looking to continue this.”
This was backed up by reports from some of the brands exhibiting at trade shows Pure London and Scoop last weekend.
John Alston, managing director of Vintage-inspired brand Collectif, which was showing at Pure, told Drapers: “We’ve been writing orders for both winter and summer, and more short orders for in season than we were expecting.”
McCann also said she was looking for more brands with an entry-level price point to add to the mix: “I was worried about pricing this season at the shows. A lot have gone up by 5% but when you multiply that by 2.8 mark-up you start to feel the pinch. We scrutinised everything and I didn’t pick up some of the higher-priced products.”
There was also an expectation among independents that brands should “pull out all the stops” this season, as budgets become tighter.
Vivien Higgins, owner of Ottiva Boutique in Wexford, Ireland, said: “Brands need to be a bit riskier. I find I see the same things again and again: some brands have three or four dresses that they just change the fabric on, and it puts you off buying and makes it less exciting.”
Similarly, Nicki Bergman, owner of womenswear retailer Browns of Stockbridge, is limiting the amount of stock it takes from more expensive brands. “I try and limit the overall spend per brand now and negotiate more,” said owner . I don’t buy across the board with brands but buy specific pieces.”