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Which side is your bread buttered?

With streetwear show Bread & Butter on the horizon, Drapers asked the young fashion market for its views on trading and the spring 10 season

Of the 30 independent young fashion indies contacted for a special Drapers survey this week, there was a fairly even split between those that had seen some evidence of a sales recovery this season and those that had not. Some 47% said they had seen “green shots” while 50% said they had yet to see any evidence of the improvements reported in recent newspaper articles.

On current trading the split was also roughly even, with a surprising 37% of the indies polled having experienced better trading in spring 09 compared with spring 08, and 40% saying sales had been down on last year.

The general mood regarding the spring 10 season remained largely optimistic, with 43% saying the UK was likely to come out of the recession next year and a more significant 70% of respondents confident that spring 10 store sales would be ahead of this spring’s more challenging performance.

This optimism has not yet fully translated to buying budgets though. More than half of those polled said their budget would be flat against spring 09 levels and a further 33% said they would actually be reducing their spend on the new season’s wares. Just 14% said they had increased their spring 10 budget.

There was positive news for new and up-and-coming labels though, with 50% of indies saying they would actively seek new brands for next year, although 32% cited backing proven brands would be their main business priority.

Ian Currie, manager of young fashion indie Dogfish in Norwich, said: “We are picking up a few extra brands [for spring 10]. With the shop being quieter, we have been able to really look at what we do and refine it.”

However, Keiron Clarke, owner of Ashes Menswear in Bournemouth, Dorset, said: “You look at new brands when the business is on the up. When you are down, you don’t. The best stuff will always come to us via reps anyway. In this climate I have enough to gamble on by stocking my current brands.”

In terms of pricing there was a virtual even split between indies expecting price hikes from brands for spring 10 and those who do not see price rises coming.

Some 60% of those surveyed said they had no plans to attend trade show Bread & Butter Berlin (B&B) this season. A further 33% said they would visit the show and 7% had yet to decide.
Most had been put off attending the show by the cost attached to an overseas trip and a perceived lack of British brand exhibitors. Gio-Goi and Religion are among the brands that are not planning to show in the halls this season.

However, a spokeswoman for B&B said show organisers were happy with the level of pre-registrations (see above box for some of the names that have expressed an interest in attending the show, which takes place from July 1-3).

Stuart Gordon, owner of menswear indie Apache in Horsham in West Sussex, said: “I think the show itself is going to be stunning, but I’m slightly apprehensive about the lack of British exhibitors and that has made me question my visit. They should have reduced the price to help brands afford to be there as I think a lot of retailers will be put off by this. If there aren’t many British retailers there I may review whether I will be going in January.”

Steve English, manager of men’s and women’s young fashion indie Cooshti in Bristol, added: “I’ll be attending B&B because I want to edit my brand mix. Brands that were only found in independents a few years ago are now everywhere and while I will be backing proven sellers, I will be using the show to see what else is out there.”

Most young fashion multiples, who were questioned separately to indies, told Drapers B&B remained the most important show for them.

Matt McCormack, head of buying for casual brands, accessories and kidswear at department store House of Fraser, said: “Trade is up overall [this season against last], especially in the lifestyle and youth areas, which includes Ralph Lauren, Gant and [HoF’s own label] Howick and the denim brands.

“B&B is the most important show for us. We know we’ll see something we haven’t seen before. We are holding [our budgets] but we’re assuming the market will be a little uncertain next year. We’re concentrating on as much newness as possible with more frequent drops of product.”

Unsurprisingly, of the 10 brands contacted this week, an overwhelming majority said B&B was still a vital marketing exercise for them, and that making a brand statement to wholesale customers in tough times sent a solid message out about brand strength and long-term business stability.

Overall, the survey drew out generally optimistic feelings about the forthcoming buying season, though there was still some caution about when the retail sector will feel a full recovery.

B&B pre-registrations

  • Asos
  • Amazon
  • Amici, Burgess Hill, East Sussex
  • Bagga Menswear, Chislehurst, Kent
  • Choice, Romford, Essex
  • Cruise, Glasgow
  • Eleven, Sunderland
  • Encore, Crosby, Merseyside
  • Envy
  • Excel Clothing, Newtownards, Northern Ireland
  • Fenwick
  • Flannels, Manchester
  • Harrods
  • John Anthony, Bath
  • Selfridges

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