I have a strange obsession with attending trade fairs. These gatherings of strands of the industry are modern versions of traditional marketplaces.
I like to take the temperature of whatever sector is being covered, but this week it seemed the temperature outside was affecting buyer turnout.
Like many consumers, some retailers appear to prefer sunbathing to buying clothes and accessories. It was ever thus and it’s no reflection on Scoop that I thought Sunday, the only day I attended, was quieter than expected.
Actually it’s helpful to me when buyers are a bit thin on the ground because I can have more time talking to exhibitors.
I picked up that things are still tough for retail, but there are some reasons to be cheerful. The late arrival of a proper summer has helped many have good Sales, leaving rails and shelves clean for autumn stock. On the downside, a few agents remarked that many of their independents are still struggling to find an effective solution to the pressures on trading, with the general economic conditions and the rise of online competition the two principal demons.
Scoop, as normal, presented itself very well. The addition of a second venue at the Phillips gallery in Victoria meant the original Saatchi Gallery looked a lot less cramped than last season. While having all 400 or so exhibitors in one place would be better, the short taxi ride between the two venues seemed a small inconvenience for a more pleasant presentation.
The pristine white walls of Scoop’s venues are totally different to the brutalist concrete building that now houses Stitch, the young fashion and streetwear show, which was my second event of the week. For four years Brian Duffy, the likeable Northern Irishman who founded Stitch, has struggled to get the engagement of significant brands or numerous buyers in his sector.
The fact he is not a fashion industry insider - he successfully ran betting shops and, funnily enough, a stand-building business, before launching his show in spring 2010 - has definitely counted against him. In contrast, Karen Radley, founder of Scoop, and Mark Batista and Craig Ford, the men behind Jacket Required, the highly successful rival to Stitch, are fashion lifers.
The new alliance between Howard Eggleston, a well-known retailer and agent, and Duffy, which we report on this week, is interesting and we’ll wait to see what a renamed and repositioned event has to offer in February.
There’s certainly room for more than just Jacket Required in a category as large as unisex casualwear, especially given Bread & Butter’s surprisingly rapid decline.
Finally, I must apologise to some independent retailers who have entered the new Drapers Top Independents awards.
I felt it needed to be refocused to better celebrate the fine work of many independent retailers. I’ve renamed it the Drapers Independents Awards so it has the same status for smaller operators as the Drapers Awards has for much larger concerns. A few categories that were too narrow or are covered by some of Drapers’ other specific awards, such as footwear and etail, have been dropped and replaced. I will contact the entrants affected, but I sincerely apologise for any disappointment. The new event, the later date of which will soon be confirmed, is going to be superb and I look forward to a great turnout by our independent readers and their suppliers, whatever the weather.