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Upbeat UK buyers return to Pitti Uomo

Florence menswear show Pitti Uomo lured back a tranche of high-profile UK buyers last week as indies and department stores kicked off the spring 11 buying season with renewed determination and optimism.

Buyer attendance at Pitti Uomo grew 6% to 19,200 against last June’s event. International buyer attendance outstripped overall growth with foreign buyers up 12% to 6,900. Within that, UK buyers rose 33%.

House of Fraser, Selfridges and premium indie Sarah Coggles in York were among the businesses which returned after several seasons’ absence. Pitti Uomo said attendance growth indicated a recovery had begun in key European markets.

However, there were mixed views on the trends and collections presented. Selfridges director of menswear and beauty David Walker-Smith told Drapers he had found about six new collections but Sarah Coggles owner Mark Bage said he hadn’t picked up anything particularly new during the event. He flagged up Nigel Cabourn as a brand that showed a strong collection.

The prospect of the VAT rise and general price increases were discussed at the event. UK buyers said they hoped brands would cushion the impact on margins as much as possible but were largely unconcerned by the potential impact that price rises could have on the recovery.

Jeremy Hackett, founder of classic menswear brand Hackett, said business remained strong but conceded that some wholesale accounts outside of London were finding sales challenging. He added: “Prices aren’t a big concern for us because we have grown our volumes so much, which can offset it.”

However, James Mickleburgh, UK agent for men’s tailoring brand Simon Carter, said: “Most buyers were asking if we’re prepared to absorb it [the potential VAT rise]. But it’s too much risk for us. We need to have partnerships between brands and retailers.”

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