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Selling season needs an agent for change

Richard Kottler

In line with the rest of the fashion industry, the spring 11 footwear selling season has started, with the first overseas exhibitions already held and the major UK ones to follow next month.

In line with the rest of the fashion industry, the spring 11 footwear selling season has started, with the first overseas exhibitions already held and the major UK ones to follow next month.

This is a time when many firms take a long, hard look at their distribution channels and their sales teams.

A number of organisations are beginning to question the return on attending these expensive shows. Many are also considering the headache of a high fixed-cost sales staff. Some are even considering distributing by the web and axeing conventional wholesale sales altogether.

One of the key factors in making this decision is the quality and availability of footwear sales agents.

The British Footwear Association (BFA) fields many requests for recommendations on agents or distributors. Organisations such as the BFA must remain neutral in this, but understand the need to provide such lists.

Ironically, the BFA co-operates with trade commissions in a variety of countries to provide up-to- date lists of people wanting to represent British labels, but has a bigger problem in supplying a similar service for the UK.

It is difficult to determine the reasons for this but it is clear that the status of sales people generally and agents in particular is perceived to be higher in Europe. Old attitudes die hard and only by encouraging the professionalism and influence of this group can we launch and develop footwear brands in the UK.

The BFA is compiling a portfolio of sales agents or distributors and will work with them so we can link them with the most appropriate brands. We would welcome contact with organisations or comments. For details email richard.kottler@britfoot.com.

Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association

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