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BHF-BSSA plans cross-sector indie buying group

Independent retail trade body the BHF-BSSA Group is poised to launch a cross-sector buying group for fashion indies that will aim to negotiate heavy discounts from brands for its members.

The BHF-BSSA, which was created last September via a merger between the British Hardware Federation (BHF) and the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA), is planning to launch a trade show and transactional business-to-business website hosting fashion brands, which will enable its 2,000 fashion retail members to pool their orders and negotiate much better discounts and terms from brands.

Suppliers are set to benefit under the scheme too, with the BHF-BSSA proposing to introduce a fast-track invoice scheme, whereby brands will invoice the trade body directly rather than the indie itself. This is designed to improve brand cash flow and reduce risk to the supplier.

The BHF-BSSA, which owns its own bank, will settle all invoices in a much shorter period than standard indie payment terms, and then re-invoice each of its individual members, taking a small commission from them for providing the service.

The model is based on the BHF Direct scheme, the buying group that the BHF has operated for some years for its DIY members. BHF Direct negotiates discounts from shopfitters, and hardware, homeware and giftware suppliers.

BHF Direct will be relaunched and rebranded as The Direct Company at the end of January, when an information website will go live at

Although other indie buying groups exist, these focus on specialist sectors such as the AIS, which operates for independent department stores, and the IMC, which works on behalf of menswear indies. The BHF-BSSA group will be the first to cross sectors and indie types.

BHF-BSSA deputy managing director Michael Weedon said: “There’s huge growth potential. We would like to see turnover [of BHF Direct] double in the next five years.”

Suppliers in all sectors told Drapers they would be interested in the group in principle, but said it would only work if they could maintain their distribution policies.

Howard Ross, UK agent for mainstream womenswear brand Gerry Weber, said if the group could offer credit insurance it would be a strong benefit to indies and suppliers alike. He added: “We wouldn’t discount beyond our current 5% for payment within 10 days.”

Peter Cronin, sales director at lingerie brand Panache, said: “We deal with AIS because it guarantees payment even if an indie goes out of business. If the BHF-BSSA can offer similar terms, we’d be interested.”

Indies said they would support a scheme that could improve margins through discounts and provide easier access to brands.

Hilary Cookson, who owns womenswear indie Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire, and advises the BHF-BSSA board, said: “A buying group would have great benefits in terms of sourcing from abroad and offering discounts.”

Chris Huggett, managing director of menswear indie Ibson in Stamford, Lincolnshire, added: “In principle it sounds like a great idea. It could work well for large brands.”

To join the BHF-BSSA and become a member of buying group The Direct Company, call 01295 713333.

What the industry thinks

Jan Shutt

Jan Shutt owner of womenswear indie Sunday Best “It’s a fantastic idea if it will give indies more clout with suppliers. It would be very beneficial. It’s great that the BSSA is giving more power to independents.”

Marc Bage

Mark Bage owner of designer indie Sarah Coggles “It would be great if brands had a uniform online presence where we could pick and choose stock. If a unified buying group could negotiate discounts, I think a lot of indies would sign up.”

<a href=Julian Dunkerton co owner Superdry” src=”Pictures/web/p/r/x/Julian_Dunkerton_co_owner_Superdry.jpg” />

Julian Dunkerton founder of young fashion brand Superdry “In fashion, control of distribution is vital. We are already stocked in the indies we want to reach but the buying group would benefit smaller brands looking to expand quickly.”

Simon Tennant

Simon Tennant UK sales manager of knitwear brand John Smedley UK “We would definitely listen to a proposal from the BHF-BSSA. If it can guarantee on-time payment from indies, I think brands would be interested.”













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