Unfortunately for most clothing and textile companies, the excitement of creating and getting ready to sell a new season’s collection is overshadowed by the difficulties of the current trading environment. The main problem continues to be lack of sufficient working capital and trying to negotiate lending from intransigent banks still demanding tough terms and high charges.
With less financial flexibility, companies are having to dig deep to come up with a business strategy that will keep production going and money flowing through the business. Developing sales with overseas customers is being seen as one way to ride out the storm.
Fashion companies will be hoping that London Fashion Week will be a magnet for international buyers and media, attracted by the return of some top designers at its new venue at Somerset House.
Paris continues to be the main location for attracting overseas customers and the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) has been a catalyst to providing co-ordinated marketing support for more than 130 fashion firms exhibiting at the plethora of locations operating during Paris Fashion Week.
While the strong pound has dampened sales to the US, the strong euro should help with buyers coming from the other direction. However, we need to look further afield and turn our attention to the newer EU markets and to a broader mix of Asian countries, rather than just Hong Kong. The Italians, French and Germans seem to be more visible than UK companies in these new countries and we must make certain we don’t get left behind. We need to make sure that we do not just get out and sell, but we are also seen to be doing it.
- Peter Lucas is chairman of the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT)