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We've changed our buying strategy to appeal to younger men

The new ranges we have brought in for spring 15 say a lot about the direction menswear is taking today.

Ashley Pankhurst, general manager of Allens of Olney, in Olney

Ashley Pankhurst, general manager of menswear store Allen’s of Olney, Buckinghamshire and IMC member

We have shirts from Casa Moda and blazers from Thomas Hutton coming in for the first time. We’ve also bought into lightweight jackets from Santinelli, which is already becoming a brand with good sell-through. Our menswear customer’s average age is over 45, but we are endeavouring to lower that by buying into our existing brands differently.

The fitted, printed shirts from Casa Moda are a case in point and we have bought into slimmer trousers too. Tailoring is an erratic part of our business and I have seen the sector change beyond recognition during my 35 years in the industry. Needless to say, our suit business is not what it once was. A lot of our customers will wear a jacket and trousers for work rather than a suit, so chinos and Sunwill trousers form a large part of our offer today. Menswear is a lot less formal than it used to be. It is all down to lifestyle changes and, as an independent, we need to be mindful of that and flexible in our buying approach.

I have been inspired to look at the business afresh this year after receiving a scholarship to attend the Oxford Summer School Retail Masters course last February. The insight I drew from there I now want to action. Retail is about relationships as much as it is about profit and loss and we are in discussions with a marketing agency with a view to reviewing how we communicate with our existing and potential customers. A lot of what we will be exploring will concern how we present ourselves to the public.

This is especially true when it comes to our formalwear department, for which we visit wedding fairs and meet a completely new type of customer. It is a fine balance between maintaining the personal approach to our long-serving customers and being pragmatic when it comes to evolving and communicating with a new public. While we do not plan to reposition ourselves arbitrarily and risk alienating our core customer, I am very aware that once you stop moving forwards, you invariably start moving backwards. That is not something we plan to do at Allen’s of Olney.

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