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Trade shows 'losing their relevance' for indies

Although Moda, Pure, Scoop, Pitti Uomo and Jacket Required are on independents’ agendas this summer, many have told Drapers they feel increasingly discouraged by the costs of travel and lack of variety at trade shows.

Pure London autumn 16

Pure London autumn 16

“We visit Pure twice a year, but it’s losing its relevance for us, as two of our core brands – Great Plains and Nice Things – no longer exhibit there, and exciting new brands aren’t showing at Pure due to high costs,” said Shelley Dawson, owner of Cactus in Banbury.

“Whoever is prepared to pay and put on a flashy display gets in and the smaller, quality brands get left behind. This lack of product focus has left trade shows in a mess,” said Jane Bear, owner of Stuff Womenswear in London, who attends Tranoi, Scoop and Pure.

She added: “Many shows are now too early, so we sometimes only get to see about 30% of the range.”

For Jerry Weinstein, manager of Woodies in Brighton, however, travel costs were a key factor in the store’s decision to move away from Italy’s Pitti Uomo.

Jackie Harvey, owner of Harveys in Sevenoaks, echoed this: “We only occasionally visit Pitti or Jacket Required. Unless you’re a large store with a separate buyer, which indies don’t tend to have, it’s hard to justify being away from store.”

Across the board, there was a growing consensus among retailers that researching online and using agents is becoming a more attractive proposition, and avoids hasty purchases made in the “chaos” at trade shows.

“It’s a difficult time for the clothing industry, so we prefer to keep buying from our bestselling brands, rather than unknown risky sells picked up at trade shows,” Dawson commented.

“Visiting showrooms, where we conduct most of our buying, is a much nicer experience, as the atmosphere is calmer and the products are laid out in a more attractive way.”

For Harvey, new brands are acquired via tip-offs from “known and trusted” agents: “We’re bringing in Slaith Knitwear next season. It will be showing at Jacket Required, but we heard about it early on due to the connections we’ve made.”

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