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Mixed fortunes colour spring 16 buying at IMC show

Regional differences in spring-summer 15 trading was a major talking point on Sunday, the first day of the two-day seasonal show for the IMC menswear buying group.

Northern and Scottish buyers were noticeably less confident than their southern counterparts after a dreadful first half of 2015 followed an unseasonably warm autumn 14. “The first half of the year has been poor. We have not been seeing the increases IMC members down south are talking about,” said Grant Mitchell, owner of Cooper & McKenzie in Dundee.

Andrew Livingston, owner of G Livingston & Son, in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, concurred: “Things improved for us after the Scottish referendum result last September, but there has only be a wee bit of an increase since then. We have been struggling due to the poor summer weather; our women’s side has suffered more than our men’s.”

The IMC buying group comprises about 100 independent businesses that run about 250 shops across the UK. Its two-day seasonal shows, held at Whittlebury Hall Hotel near Towcester, Northants, bring together around 45 mainstream suppliers, offering most product categories from tailoring and knitwear to accessories and footwear.

Damian Howard, managing director of tailoring specialist Gurteen, confirmed that 2015 has produced wildly different results. “Retailers’ experiences this spring have been really mixed,” he told Drapers. “A significant number have had a truly wonderful time and claim the recession is gone. For others, however, it has been catastrophic. The north and Scotland have had it pretty grim and it has been very much determined by the weather. And this came after a disappointing autumn 14. But for those who have had a good time, they are putting down bigger and better orders for spring 16.”

Neil Raven, owner of Ravens department store in Southend, Essex, said: “This year has been better than 2014 in all departments and there is a little bit more confidence around. The summer weather has been OK for us and that has definitely helped. For spring 16 I will be buying things that work for us in more depth, but I am still being cautious.”

William Coe, managing director of Coes, which has seven stores in East Anglia, echoed this view: “Since the general election, trade has started to show an improvement. The result has lifted confidence and people feel they have more freedom to spend. June and July noticeably picked up for us, by about 6% against 2014. But I do think this bit more confidence is fragile; it wouldn’t take much to knock it.”

Many of the IMC suppliers visited the poorly attended Moda last week. The IMC show is popular as it pulls in almost all the 100 members at a much lower cost than a conventional exhibition.

“Moda is good to get an overview of the trends and the IMC is for ordering,” said Andrew Cox, owner of James of Ely, Cambridgeshire. “I deal with 15 suppliers here so it is a rush to get around in the two days. Trade in 2015 has been quite good, but it would have been better if we’d had a summer.”   

Bold shirts, checked jackets and colourful chinos continued to attract buyers’ interest for spring 16.

Brian Winterbourne, head of UK and Ireland sales for German shirt brand Seidensticker, observed: “The IMC show is our heartland as we deal with virtually all the 100 or so members. The spring 15 season has been tough because footfall has been difficult. But the customers that retailers do get in have been spending. Shirts and trousers have been the areas that have performed well, but buyers are still cautious. No one is booking with great abandon.”

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