Not for the first time in recent years, the nation has been enjoying bright sunshine and warm weather in September.
All except fashion retailers, that is. Once again their gamble on getting cool temperatures after the summer has not come off. With the inevitability of green leaves changing to yellow and brown, the windows and websites of Fashion UK are plastered with Sales signs and seasonal reductions, as we report over the page.
So, after some positive progress on trading through most of the first eight months of the year, we have hit a temporary becalmed patch again. While the Met Office’s promise of an imminent change in the weather is encouraging, there seems no hope that the full-price sales lost during the past few weeks can be recouped. Even the mighty Next has warned analysts that the slow start may affect its annual profits, but Lord Wolfson is famed for his cautious approach to trading predictions, so I suspect the powerhouse from Enderby will be OK.
Back in the heat of Pitti Uomo in mid-June I was chatting to G-Star owner Jos van Tilburg about the craziness of the fashion industry that requires decisions - or maybe guesses is the better word- about collections to be made 12 or more months in advance of the retail season. It is not surprising that so many high street names have got it wrong by overstocking on heavy items this season, but I must point out that a lot of independents were buying very frugally at the shows in January and February to avoid being caught with too much of the wrong stuff now.
An unfortunate, but again wholly predictable, side effect of the sluggish sales is that retailers are already cancelling orders placed with suppliers. The accountancy farce at Tesco, into which the regulatory watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, has stepped this week, may well reveal some of the less palatable ways suppliers are treated by the big boys. At Drapers we certainly do not underestimate the great work manufacturers do, hence our recent addition of a Supplier of the Year category in the Drapers Awards. The trophy - and many more - will be handed out at our gala awards dinner in London on November 20. I hope to see many of you there to applaud all our finalists in all our categories.
The relationship between suppliers and major retailers was examined in a series of talks at this week’s Fashion SVP sourcing event at London Olympia. I spent a useful afternoon listening to the likes of Liraz Golan, sourcing chief at LK Bennett and Fay Tear, production supremo at Karen Millen, discussing how they manage their complicated supply chains. An interesting point offered was that today fabric mills are often the slowest link in the chain when planning fast response and replenishment of bestselling lines. Good garment makers have become nimble and responsive; not so the textile producers. True or false? Do let me know.
On the subject of discussions, ‘Critical Issues/Critical Answers’ is the slogan for this year’s Drapers Fashion Forum, our one-day conference on all manner of pressing matters for fashion retailers and those that serve them. The date for your diary is Thursday November 27, in London. Even by Drapers’ lofty standards, we have brought together an excellent line-up of informed leaders from many aspects of this great industry of ours, including Fiona Lambert from George, Michael Ward of Harrods, Liz Evans from Oasis and Warehouse, Ben Lewis of River Island, SuperGroup’s Susanne Given, Sergio Bucher of Amazon Fashion and The White Company’s Will Kernan. I am the lucky fella chairing proceedings on the day. I hope I’ll see you there.