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Shifting old Sale stock poses retail headache

Indicator - Contemporary womenswear

Independent womenswear retailers polled for the first full Indicator of 2007 were predictably in the midst of the New Year Sales, with many shop floors dominated by Sale stock. However, almost half of these stores are expecting the discount season to finish by the end of the month.

Shifting Sale stock is currently the biggest concern for these retailers. Product that does not sell is most likely to be reintroduced into the end of summer 07's Sale, while using eBay as a sales platform has become increasingly popular.

However, the majority of retailers planning to use eBay to shift leftover stock are concerned that openly admitting to this approach will lead to complaints from brands over the undermining of brand values. Similarly, those brands that shift their old stock through these ever-expanding discount channels also face repercussions from the independents that stock them.

Gary Needham, a partner at Oliholpho Clothing in Chesterfield, said retailers needed to think long and hard about their buying decisions, as well as what they do with leftover stock. "We now have different concerns to those we may have had a few years ago when talking to potential suppliers," he said. "One of the most important questions we now ask is whether they sell their stock to the likes of TK Maxx, because it gives the brand a whole new identity."

Donating unsold Sale stock to charity is also a popular way of shifting unsold product. At a time when undermining brand profiles has become a major concern, some retailers are opting for what they believe is the most cautious, albeit unprofitable, option.

TOP 10

Name your best-selling brand of the week

1. Sandwich

2. Noa Noa

3. Inwear

4. Nougat

5. Great Plains

6. B Young

7. Avoca Anthology

8. French Connection

9. White Stuff

10. Fenn Wright Manson

TOP 5

Name your best-selling style of the week

1. Jackets

2. Chunky knits

3. Fine knits

4. Dresses

5. Cardigans

TOP 5

Name your best-selling contemporary knitwear brand of the week

1. Sandwich

2. Noa Noa

3. Part Two

4. Nougat

5. Great Plains

What is the most expensive item you have sold in store this week?

£500 - Ruth Tarvydas evening dress at Sacs in Ashbourne, Derbyshire

FASHION IN FIGURES

How does your week's business compare with this time last year?

Worse 21%

41% Same

38% Better

JANUARY SALES

When will your post-Christmas Sale end?

Mid-January 3%

End of January 46%

Start of February 16%

Mid-February 19%

End of February 16%

Which brand had the best sell-through for autumn 06?

1. Sandwich

2. Noa Noa

3. Great Plains

4. Inwear

5. White Stuff

On average, what percentage of your shop floor is taken up by Sale product? 86%

What is your biggest Sale markdown? 45%

What will you do with Sale stock that does not sell?

1. Reintroduce it into next year's Sale

2. Sell it on eBay

3. Give it to charity

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Which brand do you predict will be the biggest commercial success for spring 07?

1. Sandwich

2. Part Two

3. Inwear

4. Oui Set

5. Noa Noa

Which trade shows are you planning to visit for autumn 07 buying?

Pure 97%

Pret A Porter 10%

LFW 7%

Other 24%

What is dictating your choice of trade shows this season?

Location 60%

Habit 48%

Product content 26%

Do you think dresses will continue to drive sales for spring 07?

Yes 78%

No 22%

On average, what percentage of your brands offer a stock or in-season service? 42%

Drapers spoke to 50 independents about their contemporary womenswear business for the week ending January 6. Brands and styles appearing in the lists, including the Top 10 and Top 5, are ranked when mentioned by five or more retailers.

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