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This Week in History

Millennium fever boosted eveningwear sales, Jaeger opened its first menswear-only shop, and Woolworths’ plan to open shops-on-wheels stalled

10 years ago…

Millennium fever was rife among middle-market womenswear indies, reported Drapers on November 11, 1999, as sales of eveningwear took off as the year 2000 approached.

Several leading indies told Drapers that sales were up on the year before and some had reordered or bought from stock to replenish their offer.

Rebecca Furbank, director of Anne Furbank in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, increased the store’s eveningwear buy by about 20% for the season. She said: “The last six weeks have been great and the last three weeks we have suddenly been inundated by people buying eveningwear.”

Lyn Hannay, owner of Pillar Box in Ayr, Scotland, said she had been buying from stock to keep up with demand, which was up almost 100% on the year before. One unnamed indie added that its eveningwear sales were up 20% on the year before.

Also this week, denim brand Levi’s axed its US transactional website, in a move that experts believed was likely to be followed by other brands.

The costs of running the site were believed to be behind the decision, at a time when the brand was focusing its resources on a product relaunch for spring 00.

David Scholefield, managing director of ecommerce consultancy Di’rekk, said there was a growing trend towards internet shoppers buying clothes from comparative shopping sites, such as Boo.com and Arcadia’s Zoom.com, rather than shopping on an individual brand’s website. 

30 years ago…

A big increase in menswear business at Jaeger prompted the retailer to open its first menswear-only shop on London’s Regent Street, reported the November 8, 1979 issue of Men’s Wear (later incorporated into Drapers).

This autumn Jaeger had already added Jaeger Man shop-in-shops to existing womenswear stores in Altrincham in Cheshire and Belfast, while a further unit was planned for Shrewsbury in the spring. Out of its 63 UK shops, 26 now carried menswear.

However, Jaeger’s optimism was not shared in the industry at large this week, after a survey revealed a sharp decline in confidence about retail prospects among both retailers and manufacturers.

The survey, by the National Economic Development Office and the CBI, found that despite rising retail sales in both value and volume terms, the industry was worried about the potential impact on sales of a rise in VAT, import quotas, oil prices and some supply difficulties.

In the gallery this week is a men’s blouson with contrast piping and flashes, made by Banner. It had a retail price of about £11.50 and was made from satin-finished nylon, a popular trend.

50 years ago…

A plan by Woolworths to unleash a fleet of mobile shops was thwarted according to the November 7, 1959 edition of Drapers.

The shops-on-wheels, which were to carry a variety of merchandise including clothing, stalled when local councils refused to allow such a form of trading.

Just one mobile shop managed to hit the road, trading in Basildon, Essex. A spokesman for Woolworths said local shopkeepers, anxious to avoid competition from the shops-on-wheels, were influencing the councils’ decisions to refuse permission.

Drapers also reported on the latest kidswear shows in London – the National Children’s Wear Association’s Junior Fashion Fair, and the Teenage, Infants’ and Girls’ Fashion Fair.

A return to a more formal era of clothing was the big trend story, with well-styled and formal jersey coats, ensembles of printed dresses and duster coats, and crisp shirtwaist dresses heralding a more “dressed-up” look for children.

Unfortunately there were no pictures of these latest kidswear styles, so instead this week’s gallery shows a selection of the latest women’s dress styles in gingham. 

70 years ago….

The hosiery trade was angered by a minister’s statement in the House of Commons regarding the immediate requisition of men’s knitted undervests for the War Office, reported the November 11, 1939 issue of Drapers.

In a reply to a question, minister of supply Leslie Burgin implied that only after an Order in Council had been made, and following a search of manufacturers’ and wholesalers’ premises, were manufacturers prepared to surrender their stocks.

However, members of the hosiery trade retorted that it was they who, some months before the outbreak of the Second World War, had called the Government’s attention to the lack of winter undervests being ordered for the war effort, and that when it was realised undervests would be required, suppliers had promptly sent samples of stocks.   

No further communcation was made until October 4, when an Order in Council was made to requisition all available stocks, and the following day a representative of the Ministry of Supply visited wholesalers and manufacturers.

All of this was given as evidence by the hosiery trade that, far from any premises being searched and it being reluctant to give up stocks, it had done everything it could to help. It also pointed out that some of the stock since acquired by the Government had previously been submitted as samples only to be rejected.

The war also hit textile imports this week, as a complete ban on the import of any foreign textiles, except those from France, was announced by the Import Licensing Department of the Board of Trade.

War-time fashions were on display at Selfridges in London, with a range of forage caps pictured. 

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