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Republic is relishing the challenge

Caroline Nodder

Talking to Paul Sweetenham, the new boss of young fashion chain Republic, gave me a great insight into the challenges, and indeed opportunities, facing not just his particular sector but also the wider fashion retail market.

Talking to Paul Sweetenham, the new boss of young fashion chain Republic, gave me a great insight into the challenges, and indeed opportunities, facing not just his particular sector but also the wider fashion retail market.

It was really refreshing to hear someone so positive and passionate about what UK retailers are capable of. In these times of austerity, when so much is written and spoken about what’s going wrong, to take a step back and appreciate what is going right and what potential there is in the UK market gave me a much-needed injection of positivity.

His outlook is that while some companies overextended in the boom times with unwise property acquisitions and short-term financial strategies, the good retailers and brands have moved with the times and evolved with their customers. He cites Converse as one example of a brand that has stayed relevant for decades. And Topman and Topshop for the personality and uniqueness they’ve maintained within their markets.

Another interesting issue he raised was how some brands have failed to move on in terms of textiles. With clothing in the young fashion arena moving recently from a predominantly jersey-based fabrication to woven, some had failed to be fleet of foot enough to move production to reflect this and had lost out.

He also warned against retailers relying on one or two brands in such a volatile market, when the collapse of what he called “hoodie” brands could have a serious impact if they are synonymous with those stores. Expect to hear more in the coming weeks from Sweetenham on the brands and collaborations he is negotiating to bring to Republic, and by distancing it from JD Sports Fashion and Sports Direct he has set the scene for a subtle repositioning that will be fascinating to watch. For more on this click here. Read the full interview next week. 

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