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Whiff of optimism hangs over 2011

Jessica Brown

Next week sees the official kick-off of the autumn 11 buying season with the opening of menswear show Pitti Uomo in Florence, swiftly followed by streetwear fair Bread & Butter in Berlin one week later and then the main womenswear shows.

Next week sees the official kick-off of the autumn 11 buying season with the opening of menswear show Pitti Uomo in Florence, swiftly followed by streetwear fair Bread & Butter in Berlin one week later and then the main womenswear shows. Fortunately, the general mood of retailers coming out of Christmas and the New Year Sales period is surprisingly optimistic. Business was generally brisk over the crucial trading period, particularly for indies, who benefitted from snow-hit shoppers spending on gifts locally to avoid cities and web deliveries. Most seem unconcerned by the VAT rise that hit this week too, claiming that shoppers spending £45 on a polo shirt will be just as happy to spend £46 in 2011.

Some spring 11 stock has already started shifting. For some retailers, spring sales are well ahead of target in the first week of January, giving an early read on what will likely be the season’s best-sellers. Whatever the reason for this early shopper uptake, it seems to have boosted the confidence of buyers, meaning we should be in for an interesting show season. Provided, of course, brands deliver enough newness on the product front.

While cautious optimism is the prevalent mood, how and when suppliers will deliver this year is the bigger question. Many high street retailers had already forward-booked autumn 11 before Christmas to secure manufacturing capacity. Next was one retailer hit by being unable to get enough of the right stock in the right place in time this Christmas after it was affected by fabric shortages and failed deliveries. On top of heavy snowfall, this contributed to a like-for-like sales decline of 6.1% in the five months to Christmas Eve.

Balancing the risk of ordering so far in advance against the tastes and whims of the fashion shopper will be crucial in 2011.

Jessica Brown Editor

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