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Wholesale sector feels Olympic pressure

As London limbers up for the Olympics, trade shows and showrooms in the capital are shifting their schedules and locations to avoid a logistical nightmare.

There can be no doubt that the arrival of the Olympics in London this summer will provide a much-needed boost to the UK economy at a time when every pound spent on the high street is precious.

Such is the anticipated boom that the Chancellor, George Osborne, has already agreed to relax Sunday trading hours for retailers in England and Wales, allowing them to trade for an extra six hours on a Sunday for an eight-week period during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

But while fashion retailers, particularly those based in London, stand to benefit from the increased footfall predicted during the Olympics, the wholesale sector is adjusting buying season dates and locations to help avoid the additional pressure on transport and accommodation when the Games begin in London on July 27.

The Olympics, which runs until August 12, falls during the key spring 13 buying season, leading many brands with showrooms in London to consider the dates on which they open their books and the time they keep them open for so that buyers don’t have to travel into London unnecessarily during the Games.

“I think we are the only industry that is going to be impacted by the Olympics in this way,” says Diane Sykes, sales manager at German mainstream womenswear brand Hauber, which is starting its selling season a week earlier in July because of the Olympics.

“[The Olympics] is definitely a good thing for the UK, but we need to be aware that people who aren’t based in London aren’t going to come anywhere near it when the Games are on. The hotels are either completely fully booked or far too expensive.

“We did consider the idea of showing in either Scotland or Ireland during the two weeks when the Olympics was on but we didn’t want to run the risk of not being in the London showroom during this time in case any of our London customers want to visit us then.”

Elsewhere, German womenswear brand Olsen is inviting its customers to its showroom in Düsseldorf from July 27 to 30 because it won’t start showing its second spring 13 collection in London until August 6.

“We’ve found that many of our Irish stockists who would usually fly over to see us in London are opting to come and see us in Düsseldorf instead because it is much cheaper to book flights there at that time,” explains sales director for the UK and Republic Ireland Angela Blundell.

“We don’t usually take orders for international business from the showroom in Düsseldorf, but we’ve decided to next season because of the potential problems in London. We also have a showroom in Manchester and we will also take a temporary showroom in Dublin, which we will have for 10 days next season instead of the usual five.”

Womenswear trade show Pure London, which normally starts on the first Sunday in August, has said it will shift to August 19 to 21 for its spring 13 edition because of the Games.

Premium womenswear trade show Scoop, which usually takes place at the same time as Pure London, has shifted its dateline earlier and will run from July 8 to 10.

Brands selling earlier in the season look likely to have an advantage over those going with later dates, with some buyers looking to commit their budgets as early as possible.

Verity Parker, junior womenswear buyer at John Lewis, says: “I think the buying season will undoubtedly be longer for spring 13 because of the Olympics. But as a department store buyer, it is better for us to buy as early in the season as possible so the only thing that might affect us is trade shows that have shifted later, as we might have committed our budgets by the time they come round.”

Yvette Davies, owner of contemporary womenswear indie Thirty Three Boutique in Lymington, Hampshire, adds: “I think most people will have committed their budgets by mid to late September so I’m not sure if brands keeping their books open longer will be as beneficial for buyers.

“I would prefer to try and see people earlier, rather than later, and do more buying in July, but then again I understand that samples might not be ready.”

Janine O’Keefe, owner of contemporary womenswear indie O’Keefe in Esher, Surrey, says that while she usually continues to buy until later in the season, the discussion about dates has prompted her to think about her buying much earlier.

“I think as buyers we will need to be a bit more organised and plan our appointments ahead more than usual,” she says.

Miles Fallman, director of occasionwear brand Ispirato, says that despite the dateline shift among trade shows and brands, he is not making any changes to Ispirato’s selling season.

He said: “I am planning to close the books on August 31 as we normally would because we want to be able to deliver stock for spring 13 before Christmas. We do have six regional agents, so we will be using them to visit our customers who can’t make it down to London.

“I think the main thing that the Olympics is doing is compelling buyers to be a bit more organised and think more carefully about when they make appointments to come to London and see brands.”

Sykes adds: “It is only April and we’ve already had buyers ringing up to make appointments for August, which is practically unheard of. There’s no doubt this is on everyone’s radar and people are trying their best to plan well in advance so they are not caught out.”

Story in numbers

5.5m visitors are expected to come to London over the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

3 major trade shows have shifted their dates to avoid clashing with the Olympics

£6.5bn has been invested in improving existing transport links and building new ones in London in preparation for the Olympics

7 womenswear brands contacted by Drapers including Olsen, Hauber and Basler are altering their selling dates for spring 13 because of the Olympics

2 womenswear sales agencies, representing nine brands between them, have told Drapers they are altering their selling dates for spring 13

Trade show date shifts

Scoop, Saatchi Gallery, London

Show Premium womenswear exhibition usually held during the first week of August.

Spring 13 edition July 8 to 10, 2012


Stitch, Business Design Centre, Islington

Show This menswear event usually begins on the first Sunday in August

Spring 13 edition July 15 to 16, 2012


Pure London and Pure Spirit, Kensington Olympia, London

Show Contemporary womenswear show which usually begins on the first Sunday in August

Spring 13 edition August 19 to 21, 2012

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