If ever I meet a television producer looking for a new reality TV idea, I’m going to suggest a programme that charts the intrepid efforts of buyers and press to get to a weekend fashion exhibition.
I see it being along the lines of a cross between Challenge Anneka and one of the more crazy episodes of Top Gear where they go to find the source of the Nile or something similar.
Along with many visitors, the Drapers team had splendid fun trying to get to Olympia for Pure London last Sunday. Mayor Boris’s efforts to boost the capital’s coffers might be helped if Transport for London could manage to open the Tube spur line from Earls Court to Olympia on a Sunday. You’d think six or 12 months’ notice of a fair’s date would give TfL enough time to organise this small favour, but it seems beyond them. This season’s event was further hampered by large swathes of west London being closed to traffic for the sake of a massive bike ride. Not helpful.
Those of us that didn’t just walk the final leg of our journey had to take to the overground trains, which are a mystery to me even though I lived in London for 20-plus years. I’m now fully familiar with both Shepherd’s Bush stations including the one that has no link to Olympia. But I learn fast and Monday’s journey back to Pure was a doddle.
Anyway, the sterling efforts of my colleagues and I were rewarded with a neat-looking show that was buoyed with a reasonably positive atmosphere. All these things are relative, of course, and a few retailers I spoke to said they were feeling happier because trading, while not very good, was not as bad as it had been. One agent friend of mine observed that UK independents ought to be thankful they had not had it as bad as those in the Irish Republic.
Despite the deprivations and challenges of the past few years, the can-do attitude and inherent positivity of the fashion community shone through. I chaired a couple of panel sessions and it was interesting and encouraging to hear Vicki Fernyhough of Yard in Dorset, Jeremy Clayton of Javelin in Suffolk and Michelle Jarrold of Jarrold in Norwich (all past Drapers Award winners, incidentally) explain their responses to these demanding times.
Key points involved communicating with your customer base more effectively, which doesn’t necessarily mean more often, just more appropriately. Avoiding wherever possible the temptation to slash prices because business was sticky was another good approach. And looking for more in-season buys rather than risking everything in the casino of unpredictable weather seemed eminently sensible. The final tip, which I thought was excellent, was to make your best customers feel even more valued.
I’ll be interested to see what Moda holds this weekend. I’m expecting a similarly positive mood among the mainstream community to that which we saw at Pure and Scoop. The trek from my home in east Kent to the NEC is one of my least favourite journeys. I long ago gave up trying to get there by train as a combination of perpetual weekend engineering works and comically high prices put me off. So I shall be chauffeuring a team of colleagues from London to Birmingham in the Drapers limousine on Sunday. As we are crawling along past miles of traffic cones on the M6 I shall remind myself how glamorous it is to work in the fashion business. Happy trading to all our readers.