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Jeff Banks: ‘Indies, now is the time’

Independent retailers have a huge opportunity to pick up business this year, according to industry stalwart Jeff Banks, who accused the high street of opening too many stores and “jading their consumers”.

Speaking at young fashion show Pure Spirit at Earls Court in London this week, Banks said shoppers were tired of seeing the same garments everywhere and on everybody.

Banks cited an example of one of his staff who bought a leopard-print coat from Mango and subsequently spotted numerous people wearing it on a Saturday night, so returned it.

Banks added: “Indies can really score here. They can have little sorties of colour and style. They are a big saving grace in Britain and congratulations to all those who are still doing it [trading as an indie].”

Banks went on: “Our indies have got to look at servicing the must-have market … and have imagination of how to retail it [the style].”

Banks said items which are difficult for the consumer to put a price on should be a “must-have” for indies.

He said: “Department stores are all margin obsessed. They engineer designs for margin gains. It [a style] doesn’t have to be exorbitant.” He said shoppers were still prepared to spend an extra £10 or £15 if an item was a real must-have.

Separately, Banks picked out the trends he believes will be the most commercial this spring and through high summer, giving indies tips on which to splash their short-order and stock budgets on and which to avoid. He warned indies to avoid buying literal catwalk interpretations.

For more from Jeff Banks on key trends, visit www.drapersonline.com

Jeff Banks’ tips for spring 11 stock

Bold colours

“This will continue into spring 12. It’s how you silhouette them that makes this season.”

Neutrals

“At the realistic end of the market, you have to find some way to give neutrals shelf life and life on the rail - texture [is key]. You need to bling decoration.”

Tribal prints

“There will be a resurgence of African prints not just on fashion but on pottery, crockery, linen, rugs. We are just scraping the surface now. Last time this look hung around for four or five years and it will do so again. It’s A-sexual and it’s very youthful.”

“[But] A very defined print and a very defined silhouette by the very nature of fashion is restrictive. It can be so identifiable you can almost only wear it once.”

Animal prints

“Animal will stay around as long as Roberto Cavalli keeps churning it out. But it won’t work if it is too obvious. Look in Mulberry’s window, there is a techno-distressed tiger print almost like camouflage.”

Proceed with caution

Orange

“It works on people with a certain skin tone…The last time I did orange was a catwalk show at the Savoy Hotel in about 1979. I put all my money on one horse and it didn’t come in. You can use it on a single mannequin in a window to drive footfall. In shoes and bags is where to buy it. As an accessories colour it is a must for this season.”

Longer hemlines

“I don’t think there is a right or wrong in hemlines this season. Personally I love the Roland Mouret mid-calf but it is a difficult and dangerous length to wear. Some of the a-line dresses in New York [at autumn 11 fashion week] looked absolutely frumpy.”

White

“There is a market for white linen pant suits for the races. It gets grubby quickly. Is it going to get covered in make-up with two try-ons? I’d be very wary of it. It could end up on the markdown rail…But it is difficult for the multiples to deliver on. This white dress wouldn’t last five minutes in Debenhams. It is like a rare flower that needs room to breathe and hot-housing. An independent can do that, keeping sizes in the back.”

Losers

Denim

“I don’t see it coming back. Most retailers are struggling with denim. Jeans sales are all down on where they were four or five years ago. They have been overtaken by jeggings, which have been great with the shoe silhouettes. I can’t see women wanting to get back into wanting the constraint of denim. High-waisted are so bloody uncomfortable. Wide-leg is not an easy leg shape to wear. It will be some time before we see a return of denim to where it was four or five years ago.” 

Chambray shirt dresses

“These looks just aren’t exciting enough. I would have liked to have seen these dresses as a sand-coloured safari look, with a wide belt and almost a Hermes scarf. Kids are getting right into that silhouette. They are spending money on ebay or in store on buying a Gucci scarf [for example]. They will wear a £50 scarf with a £9.99 dress and make it look fabulous.”

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