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UK agents cautiously optimistic for spring 18

Fashion and footwear sales agents have greeted the spring 18 selling season with cautious optimism, reflecting an improved mood among buyers at their key accounts.

Spring 18 buying season kicked off at Pitti Uomo in Florence last week

“Sales are up compared with last year, and the weather has come at the right time,” one young-fashion agent told Drapers. “We’ve been seeing yearly increases of up to eight times [sales last year] in our stockists and online business.”

A director at a premium men’s and women’s wear agency said the general election rocked confidence earlier in the month: “Uncertainty and insecurity in the market has hit everyone.”

But he added: “Generally, business is increasing every season. It’s been a stable marketplace for us, even if I can’t say the same for all our brands. New brands coming into the market are finding it hard to gain traction.”

Some of the UK menswear agents attending Florence trade show Pitti Uomo last week said they felt that the North American department stores were not out in their usual numbers, which they put down to tighter cost management.

“There aren’t too many US buyers coming out to Europe this year generally,” observed one.

However, they downplayed the impact, as many either have showrooms in the US or visit buyers there on a regular basis.

While most agreed that the overall mood among UK buyers has improved, some agents said retailers are still more cautious than they were this time last year. Yet many of those Drapers spoke to had anticipated this, and prepared accordingly.

“Stock levels have changed [in line] with seasonal changes, and forward orders have slowed slightly, but our core lines and volumes are as anticipated,” said one London-based distributor.

• The buying team at New York luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman cancelled its spring 18 buying trip to London amid safety concerns, Drapers can reveal. The business will conduct appointments through virtual meetings.

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