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Weather-beaten women's indies cut buying budgets

Womenswear independents are cutting buying budgets for spring 08 after poor trading and gloomy weather, ahead of trade show Pure in London this week.

Incessant rain has compounded slow spending, which had been worsened by five interest rate rises in the past year.

The situation has pushed many retailers into going on Sale up to three weeks earlier than usual.

Tamasine Wilson, owner of Blue in Saffron Walden in Essex, said: "Trading has been bad, particularly since April. I have gone on Sale two weeks earlier than usual and the second week has been really quiet. People are talking about wearing coats and scarves.

"I will be more cautious in my buying at Pure. I am definitely not in a situation to look for new brands and budgets may be a little lower."

Lisa Pearce, owner of Mia in Sidmouth, Devon, said budgets would be slashed by between a third and half for spring 08. "The weather has affected our sales a lot - people aren't buying summer clothes. Rising interest rates also mean people are more cautious," she said.

However, Pearce added that dresses, T-shirts and tops in general were selling, with Noa Noa and Dranella the best performers. "I'll be looking for bags and jewellery at Pure, which sells in any weather. I've found the show really useful for that in the past," she added.

Robin Willis, owner of The Lilac Room in Hastings in East Sussex, said budgets would remain similar to last year despite "quiet" trading. The shop went on Sale a week earlier than last year, with discounts of between 25% and 50%.

He said: "Business in April was great, but it has been slow in June and early July. People are cautious because of interest rate rises and the awful weather."

At Wardrobe in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, buying budgets are being cut by 20%, despite a similar decrease last year. However, owner Judy Price said her Sale is going well, and variable business will not prevent her looking for new inspiration at Pure. "We are open to new brands and suppliers, but we will have to be more ruthless," she said.

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