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Individuality stands out among the pomp and circumstance

Ana Santi

It’s finally here, the much-anticipated Jubilee weekend.

It’s finally here, the much-anticipated Jubilee weekend. The bunting has been swaying in the breeze for what feels like months and retailers’ shop windows have duly paid tribute. But not everyone is excited, it seems. In our poll of independent retailers this week, 75% of womenswear indies said the Jubilee won’t help boost sales, with 50% of men’s stores echoing the sentiment. Meanwhile, analysts believe food retailers will benefit, but clothing businesses are more dependent on good weather, while consumers will choose partying over shopping.

I see their point, but we do have four days to play with – four whole days. Unless you live on Ramsay Street, surely you’re not going to spend the entire weekend partying with your neighbours. Yes, the weather will play its part, but a feel-good factor coupled with end-of-the-month pay day should give consumers the impetus to shop.

As you’ll see from our feature on retailers’ shop windows, it’s the stores that have interpreted the Jubilee theme in their own, quirky way that attracted the attention of our stores editor. And individuality is crucial in terms of enticing shoppers, Jubilee or no Jubilee. This week, I went to Reiss’s HQ to preview its autumn 12 offer.

I was impressed, particularly with the new dropped-arm silhouette on coats and tops. But it was the ethos across the business that struck me. David Reiss admitted it is “tough out there”, but his response was: “But what are you going to do about it? You can’t stand still.” Indeed. From product to technology, I witnessed a best-in-class example of brand building. The proposition is clear – to be an international, premium brand – and the route to achieving this is well thought out.

The other interesting point that David made was that “retail is now a science”. As an industry, I think we’re sometimes guilty of hiding behind the premise that fashion is an art form, that backing trends is emotional rather than scientific. Shopping will always have an emotional element, but with so many advances in technology and access to consumer insight, fashion retailing is becoming more and more of a science.

On the same day, I also dropped by the offices of womenswear agent M&L Harris. The owner, Liliane Harris, was beaming after a recent trip to Portugal, courtesy of Farfetch. She attended a two-day conference and was inspired by how much she learnt about online retailing (Harris also owns London indie Larizia). She said international sales via Farfetch to southern hemisphere countries helped her navigate the UK’s recent two-month spell of bad weather.

Economic conditions may not be in our favour right now, but there’s plenty of innovation across our industry. I certainly won’t buy a sequined Union Jack T-shirt or a red, white and blue dress disguised as ‘normal’ attire. But I do fancy a new pair of sandals and high-waisted shorts.

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