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Would you credit it?

It might be a bloodbath on the high street but you wouldn’t know it from the buzz at the Bread & Butter show in Barcelona.

No one could accuse UK exhibitors of being eternal optimists, so what has prompted this mood of positivity? Beats me. The buyers I’ve bumped into remain extremely concerned about their prospects in 2008.

However brand bosses claim the tough market means indies have a chance to thrive as the multiples play it safe and scale back their operations. The bigger brands and short order brands I’ve chatted to are also upbeat. They claim their position in the market means they are sucking up more of buyers’ budgets for autumn.

However, I’m not convinced. While orders might be going up for the big boys, what does this mean in terms of their risk exposure to non-payments from their customers next season? Issues with credit insurance are the hot topic for debate at the show, and I would have to go way “off record” to give a true picture of just how tough the market is.

Those brands that are reacting to credit issues and reining in customer orders - even if that means reducing their topline sales - seem to be taking a sensible position. Others that are attempting to capitalise on the downturn by selling goods willy-nilly, may have their fingers burnt come autumn 08.

But, I understand the reasoning behind the smiley faces and chipper attitudes here in Barcelona. God knows it’s depressing enough being in the UK fashion industry after the Christmas we’ve just had. And, if a break away to see some new, if not enthralling product, can’t lift the mood then I don’t know what can. And surely the only thing suppliers and retailers can afford to do right now is keep positive…

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