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Recession’s survivors sow seeds of recovery

Retailers, wholesalers and all fashion-related businesses have suffered from the effects of the recession, but in some respects the recession has been positive by giving a wake-up call to the whole industry.

Many businesses have collapsed under the strain, but the recession has forced those that have survived to operate outside their comfort zones.

Those that have reassessed or trimmed cost centres, managed risk more effectively, been entrepreneurial with cash flow and reviewed their business vision to adapt to the changing times have not just survived, but have thrived.

I have discussed strategies employed by some of our key retailers and have been delighted with the creativity and approach employed. Getting customers through the door and winning sales with a new approach to personal service and product offer was key.

By buying smarter and more often into statement looks, some retailers have increased the retail basket size per customer and turnover per sq ft, even though footfall was reduced. Management of cash flow and the use of early payment discounts have also been contributing factors to profit.

Oui traded exceptionally in spring 09, through the toughest trading climate yet. That success was earned. Close customer relationships, pricing product very competitively - which meant absorbing the bulk of the increased euro to sterling rate - managing product sourcing better and leaving little to chance has worked.

So are we seeing the first shoots of recovery, and is it sustainable? Retail innovation, careful risk assessment, the right product to woo the customer and a clear plan of expectations will sow the seeds for sustainable growth.

Geraldine Bennett is UK managing director of Oui Group UK, which includes the Set, Oui Moments and Oui & Co brands

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