Sub-zero temperatures have added to high street suppliers’ woes, as poor sales of spring stock spur retailers to delay deliveries and reduce their reliance on forward orders.
“It’s incredibly tough out there,” said one high street womenswear supplier. “Manufacturers are struggling to get orders as retailers are holding back. They are working closely to the season. We only know [what they want] three months in advance, there is no production planning any more. It’s a bit of a nightmare.”
“Over the last four years average orders are down from 30,000 units to maybe 5,000 or 6,000. [High street retailers] are playing it safe. It is all about price margin at the moment, product comes second. However, I think shoppers are getting fed up because the quality and design of garments is starting to suffer.”
One young fashion supplier said traditional multichannel retailers were struggling and some have delayed the delivery of spring stock as a result: “The etailers are up [in terms of sales] but the bricks and mortar retailers are slightly down.”
He said poor January sales and persistent cold weather had caused some high street department stores to push back orders, but added this has been offset by online businesses bringing orders forward.
Another high street supplier said his deliveries from China were being delayed by two weeks as the country returns from the two-week Chinese New Year holiday period.
He added: “It is really tough on the high street but, before the cold weather hit, we were doing OK. We had some good reaction to spring product – tops and bottoms were doing well for young fashion retailers.”
One menswear supplier pointed to accessories as a bright spot, and reported that scarves were driving volumes. He reported the first two months of the year had been “quite good” and department store chains John Lewis and House of Fraser had bought accessories orders forward.
“It is tough on the high street but shoppers are still buying accessories,” he said. “I am feeling more positive about 2018 than I did this time last year about 2017.”
Another menswear supplier said he has changed his business model to react to changing customer behaviour. He has moved away from working with smaller independent retailers and now does more business with big online players.
“We still have a foot in the traditional camp,” he added, “but trade at the department stores and the indie market has been poor.”
He attributed the difficult beginning of the year to the lingering impact of Black Friday, which “moved the goalposts” for January Sales. “It is a challenging time and I predict there will be further store closures ahead.”