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Only the brave will get noticed, buyers told

Panel of experts say giving shoppers something different is ever-more crucial in a crowded high street

Fashion buyers must innovate and take risks if they are to stand out on the saturated UK high street, according to a panel of leading buyers.

Peter Ruis, buying and brand director at John Lewis, said in the current climate buyers need to innovate and make bold decisions when it comes to product. “It’s all about winners and losers, and our trade is a very competitive one,” he said.

Sarah Welsh, buying director at Oasis, agreed, adding that buyers must deliver something customers cannot get elsewhere: “We need more risk takers. Innovation and uniqueness stands out on the high street. The customer has so much choice now and so many different retailers are offering a similar product. So if you can stand out from the market you can really make your mark.”

Helen Connolly, head of ladies buying at George at Asda, said the supermarket brand is offering its customers a point of difference, while protecting its margins and mitigating some of that risk by moving much of its buying to the UK.

She said: “By buying closer to home you are inevitably reducing risk because you’re not trying to visualise it for 26 weeks from behind your desk. We’re also getting better at trialling. Our orders are huge and we may be placing 100,000 units of a fashion line, so trialling products and getting a quick response back in mitigates some of that risk.”

Welsh agreed and said the benefit of Oasis’s relationship with its UK supplier is their added insight into what’s selling in the UK market.

Sebastian Manes, buying and merchandising director at Selfridges, warned that buyers must not become complacent: “You can be a hero one season and a zero the following season, and then you’re back to square one again. It’s good to always have your feet on the ground and remember that you start again every season.”

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