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Memo from Musgrave: Good news, shopkeepers – etailers struggle too

We do not like zero-hours contracts here at Drapers.

We prefer to try and fit a working week’s hours into one day. With that in mind, on April 30 we gathered at breakfast to kick off the Digital Forum and a surprising number of us were still going strong at 2am the next morning when the Digital Awards after-party came to an all-too-early end.

I regard my own performance as part of my stamina training for a soon-to-be-legendary 10k Superhero run on behalf of the Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust in a week’s time (of which more later), but it was very gratifying to see so many friends old and new enjoying the proceedings of our annual ecommerce fest.

Our day-long conference saw a lot of talented and successful folk sharing some excellent insights on many facets of omnichannel, multichannel, social media, digital engagement and generally selling stuff online. Listening to an excellent roster of speakers outline their problems I was reminded of an offbeat ad that jeans brand Pepe used about 20 years ago when it was repositioning itself with a young target audience. The copy read: ‘Good news for smokers. Non-smokers die too.’ Even a lifelong non-smoker like me found that black humour amusing.

We were reminded that etailers, like traditional shopkeepers, have a bunch of daily challenges. It was not too long ago that online selling was seen by some dreamers as an easy route to riches. Set up a website for tuppence, stick some stuff on it and open that Cayman Islands bank account for the money to flow into. Aah, the follies of the early adopters…

As I have noted before in this column, the fashion retailing industry is undergoing a period of incredible change.

An impressive list of participants, from Harrods to Boohoo.com and from The Outnet.com to Topman, were refreshingly open about the trials of identifying customers and their needs and then satisfying them. It’s called fashion retailing.

Appropriately enough, the big winners at the awards were omnichannel Topshop and etailing specialist Shop Direct, so a relative digital newcomer and a specialist. Other winners ranged from Amazon to tech startup Grabble, whose young founder Daniel Murray knows the traditional fashion industry better than most. His family business was womenswear stalwart Sidney Murray.

Elsewhere, I am intrigued by London Fashion Week’s plans to base itself at a former car park in Soho from September. One unsubstantiated theory is that the British Fashion Council needs to save money following the change of headline sponsor from Vodafone to Sunglass Hut. I was never a huge fan of Somerset House and am keeping an open mind on the new location until I see what the BFC does with the space. It could work very well, but I don’t fancy the heating bill for February 2016. The arguments about traffic problems in Soho are slightly pointless - someone please tell me any area in central London that does not have serious congestion.

There will be congestion of another sort in Regent’s Park on Sunday May 17 when I will be among more than 2,000 people running for various charities. Supported (probably literally) by four sporty colleagues from the Drapers events team, I will be covering the 10km (6.2 miles in old money) for FTCT, of which I am a trustee. As this will be six days before my 60th birthday, it might well be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sponsor me as I will not be making it a habit. Please be generous and log on to Mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/victoriahart1. Very many thanks.

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