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Wow factor proves a valuable currency

Prices up 10%. Prices flat. Suppliers under pressure. Suppliers flexing their muscles. And so as we move deeper into the autumn 09 buying season, the debate across the industry on how to deal with the crushing issue of the weak sterling is gathering momentum.

While young fashion brands at trade show Bread & Butter last month said they would absorb the increased sourcing costs to support their customers,
mainstream brands exhibiting at Moda UK this week said they would pass on price hikes to indies.

Whether this decision was born out of arrogance at being so-called “must-have” brands or genuine pressure on margins is unclear. Certainly these opposing standpoints seem absurd given middle-market sales are crashing while young fashion is holding up.

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer has joined Monsoon in “working with” suppliers to share the cost burden of the weak pound, but neither is likely to be able to avoid putting prices up when autumn deliveries land. How nervy and discount-hungry shoppers will react to price rises is keeping many a retailer awake at night.

One solution would seem to be to wow customers with great must-have product. Over at New York Fashion Week Marc Jacobs did just that with a two-fingers-up-to-the-recession collection filled with show-stopping mini dresses and bright outerwear.

It may have lacked cohesion, but boy did it liven up what has otherwise been a grey month.

With currency on their side in terms of export sales, I hope London Fashion Week designers can deliver some more bright spots next week.

See www.drapersonline.com for daily updates from the front row.

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