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Womenswear indies defy the rain as dress sales soar

Dresses and occasionwear are driving sales at mainstream womenswear independents in the run-up to the show season, despite weeks of bad weather.

Joyce Craighan, owner of Sarah Siddons in Warrington in Cheshire, said dresses were flying off the shelves. "People are desperately looking for day dresses," she said. "Smock tops are still popular, but not as much as dresses. We've also had people buying into suiting for autumn as well as lots of soft knitwear."

Anne Furbank, managing director of Cambridgeshire-based Anne Furbank, described occasionwear sales as "phenomenal". She said autumn stock had already sold well, with high summer outfits slower because of the unseasonably cold weather. Overall, trading for spring and summer had been "buoyant", she added.

Bertha Barbour, owner of 101 Boutique in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, said budgets would remain steady next season and she was hoping to see more colour on offer for spring 08. "Our Sale is going well. I'm hoping for more colour this autumn, instead of brown, brown, brown."

At Coles in Ipswich, womenswear buyer and manager Cheryl Rawlings said July sales were picking up after a slow June. "We are selling a lot of linen and summer pieces such as light cotton knitwear," she said, "Cotton day dresses from Oui Moments, Ted Baker and Fullcircle have sold well because many customers have holidays coming up."

Rawlings said interest rate rises last week could dampen sales, although prices would not change accordingly. "People are tightening their belts and looking for value, so they want competitive prices," she added.

Coles has increased its short-order buying to between 30% and 40%, compared with 10% last year. "A lot of independents will forward order, but you can get to a stage where you don't have anything to show customers," said Rawlings.

Coles was one of many retailers polled by Drapers this week that had decided against going to CPD in Dusseldorf this year.

"I have abandoned the trip," said Hilary Cookson, owner of Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire. "I found it too fragmented and have decided to spend more time at UK agencies."

Craighan added: "CPD is too costly and I don't feel the need for it."

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