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Indies slash forward-order budgets on eve of B&B

Exclusive poll reveals retailers’ cautious mood, although seeking out new brands is still key for many

Almost half of young fashion independents have cut their spring 12 forward-buying budgets in reaction to challenging trading conditions.

An exclusive Drapers poll of young fashion indies, conducted one week before the start of trade show Bread & Butter, suggests pressure on cash flow has led buyers to hold money back in order to react in-season instead.

It found 48% of men’s young fashion indies and 46% of women’s young fashion indies plan to spend less on spring 12 forward-order product than they did for spring 11. Just 20% of men’s indies and 8% of women’s indies said they would be increasing their spend.

The data further highlighted a telling shift change in buying patterns, with more than half of womenswear indies (54%) and 24% of menswear indies saying they spent more than ever before on in-season product for spring 11.

Indie owners blamed the buying squeeze on cautious consumer spending, a hallmark of the prolonged post-recession cycle and the cash-flow difficulties presented by the traditional two-season fashion buying system.

The young fashion sector has been hit hard by the drop in spending among today’s young consumers caused by the rising cost of higher education and tough jobs market, and retailers have had to adapt their buying habits accordingly.

Audrey Cleeve, owner of womenswear indie Stepping Out in Midhurst, West Sussex, said: “I cut back because minimum purchase orders were too high and came all at once. Now I order my bread-and-butter brands then go to London for in-season, instant stock injections when I need them.”

Claire Harvey, manager of Optio boutique in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, cut her spring 12 budget by half compared with the year before. She said: “We used to be purely forward order, but hardly do any now. We don’t want to get into that situation again of owing all that money to suppliers and having all that stock. Trends come on too quickly and the high street is too strong.”

The survey also picked up a sustained disinterest in denim among indies, with 39% of men’s and half of women’s respondents declaring jeans would not make a comeback for spring 12.

Denim sales have suffered over the past few seasons while the popularity of chinos and dresses has exploded. Brands told Drapers that they had planned their spring 12 ranges accordingly.

A spokesman for Voi Jeans said: “Designers have noticed an increased demand for chinos so it will be a predominate part of our spring 12 range. It’s brought us a new market and lets us play with new materials that other brands are dubious about trying.”

Meanwhile, although young fashion indies are cutting their spring 12 budgets, some 52% of menswear indies and 17% of womenswear indies said they still intended to visit Bread & Butter in Berlin, which kicks off on Wednesday and celebrates its 10th year this season.

Indies also said they would continue to seek out new brands in spite of the pressure on next season’s buying budgets.

Among women’s indies polled, 78% intended to take on an average of two new brands for spring 12, while 70% of men’s indies said they would add new brands next season.

Dominic Mann, manager of Clues Menswear in Northampton, said: “A couple of years ago at B&B we picked up a new label nobody had heard of, Eleven Paris, and it has performed ideally for us. There is always a risk with new brands, but we can’t be complacent. We have to find the next big thing before somebody else does.”

Mauro Santa Barbara, menswear buyer for Accent in Leeds, said of B&B: “Where else are you going to see 30 to 100 labels in one
day? That’s compared with seeing two collections at a couple of appointments over as many months. It’s the best chance to see styles first hand, tick boxes for what’s missing and decide which labels to go for.”


Buying habits


of men’s young fashion indies are cutting their spring 12 budgets against last year


of women’s young fashion indies upped their in-season buy for spring 11


of women’s indies intend to add new brands for spring 12

Readers' comments (2)

  • It is very wise for Indies to cut back on forward orders, but so far many brands aren't adapting their criteria to the challenging times, therefore creating an untenable situation.

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  • Stern Clothing

    Very good point regarding denim, lads are picking up 2 pairs of chino's for the price of good quality jeans.

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