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Star style is steadily losing its shine

The recent glut of celebrity tie-ups has forced Michael Ashison to look elsewhere for inspiration

To be successful in business it's essential to stay ahead of the pack. This is especially true in retail, where to take your eye off the ball can be fatal.

For Bullfrogs, this means regular reviews of certain aspects of our business. Part of my job is to make sure we are on trend and that deliveries hit the shop floor on time.

To do this I break my workload into two categories. The first covers all aspects of stock - have we got the key looks right? Are our pricing structures correct? The second is the back office procedures that ensure the smooth delivery of stock to the shop floor and the control and reordering and tracking of stock.

To make sure we have all the key high street looks I used to celebrity-watch, keeping an eye on stars such as Gwen Stefani and Sienna Miller for ideas. So it's no surprise to see the launch of Kate Moss's range at Topshop and the new Lily Allen ranges at New Look. As a buyer, does this make my job any easier? And as a source of inspiration, have these style icons lost their sparkle and mystique by becoming so accessible?

For me, unfortunately, the answer is that no, my job is no easier, and yes, the magic has gone. So I will have to look elsewhere for guidance. These celeb tie-ups are good business for Mr Green et al, but another tool in fighting the uniformity of the marketplace has been absorbed into the mainstream.

Looking at our stock control procedures, I noticed that although the process ran smoothly in that goods hit the shop floor on time, stock checks revealed discrepancies. As I said in my last column, theft was becoming a problem, so we decided to track certain items. To our astonishment we found that not only were some items being nicked they were actually being de-tagged.

After talking to nearby shops it emerged that the magnets used to unlock the security tags were being sold on a nearby market. The manufacturers have been informed and they in turn have informed the police.

It's ironic that as we try to stay ahead of the game, so do the thieves. After talking to the police myself I was told that possessing a de-tagger is not a crime, although using one is. So anyone can walk round your shop with a device that can only be used to steal, but there is nothing you can do until they try to use it. The PC I was talking to started telling me about these people's civil liberties - I was thinking it was more like bloody liberty.

Anyway, enough negativity - we have had the strongest start to the season for two years, with all the usual suspects such as Birkenstocks and Crocs coming to the fore. The hot weather has had a key part to play in pushing sales, while the trend for dresses has encouraged sales of sandals in particular.

That, coupled with winning the young fashion category at this week's Drapers Footwear Awards, means it could be a very good year.

- Michael Ashison co-owns footwear business Bullfrogs in London.

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