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Trade body provides strength in numbers

Jessica Brown

The spirit of the plan is one of collaboration and working together

At first glance, September’s merger of the independent retail trade group the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) and the British Hardware Federation (BHF) didn’t seem to have much for fashion indies to get excited about.

But just five months on and the merged association, which is still awaiting a new name to replace the rather cumbersome BHF-BSSA, has come up with some impressive plans. Fashion indie members, of which there are 2,000, are working with the BHF-BSSA’s new chief executive Alan Hawkins to create an independent buying group. At present, indie buying groups are either informally organised between indies themselves or take in specialist sectors such as department stores or menswear. But the BHF-BSSA’s proposed group will provide indies with much greater negotiating power with suppliers and lock them into a network of other like-minded businesses.

But there are benefits for suppliers too. Indies that are part of a buying group tend to pose less risk as customers and tend to have rubber-stamped credentials. The spirit of the plan is one of collaboration and working together - a theme that is absolutely vital to surviving the recession.

But the BHF-BSSA cannot pull off such a project without huge support from the industry. If you are not a member I urge you to join the association and work hard to get this buying group off the ground. Suppliers must also back these plans. Collectively, indies remain one of the most, if not the most, important customer bases to most brands, and it is in your interests to see as many achieve success as possible.

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