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Spring gloom gives way to autumn optimism

Retailers are hoping for a stronger trading period as they head into autumn, following the “car crash” of spring 13.

Businesses up and down the country told Drapers they had to deploy stricter than usual stock controls to work around “extreme” changes in weather.

Jo Davies, owner of womenswear boutique Black White Denim in Wilmslow, Cheshire, said the past three months had been “a total car crash”, as the weather turned from “horrible” to “too hot” virtually overnight.

She bought “very tightly” and as a result the store has the lowest stock level in its history, and Davies said she was expecting autumn to be “our best season ever”.

John Lewis head of womenswear Jo Hooper also had to alter her buying to meet the challenges of the season. She told Drapers: “We worked very closely with suppliers and brands to get through a season that has been very difficult to predict.” As a result she was “quite pleased” with current trading and stock levels.

“We’ve been looking to source differently and be more flexible in our approach, and it was this that gave us the ability to trade through it,” she added.

Janine O’Keefe, owner of womenswear retailer Okeefe in Esher, Surrey, agreed spring had been tough. “It was a very long winter and we had not planned enough transitional product,” she told Drapers. “It was a real learning curve and something at the forefront of our buying strategy for spring 14.”

Julian Blades, owner of seven-store designer retailer Jules B, said the recent hot spell had boosted sales but he was looking to introduce more pre-collection pieces in a bid to avoid “the ridiculous business of discounting”. It would also “give the customer a continuous batch of fresh stock and enable us to seasonably adapt product”, he said.

Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous womenswear store in Primrose Hill, north London, also saw a lift thanks to better weather. However, despite early signs of a strong autumn, she said the “crazy weather is something we have to consider”.

Stephen Monaghan, owner of premium menswear etailer The Great Divide, said he had managed more than 50% sell-through before reaching the Sale period, and criticised what he described as “our quite frankly insane Sale strategy in the UK”.

“We won’t make as much money as Sales kicked off in July when people were just turning their attention to spring 13,” he said. “Like most other retailers, I’m sure the pinch will be felt. I just wish we had a system that prevented us from being knocked by the more hegemonic stores online and in the high street.”

Monaghan is also looking ahead to an “exciting” autumn 13, describing it as “our strongest season to date”.

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