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Women’s indies play it safe

Caution reigns among buyers for spring 10, according to a survey of 30 independent mainstream womenswear retailers undertaken by Drapers ahead of the key womenswear trade show calendar.

More than half of the indies polled had slashed their buying budgets, despite a relatively optimistic attitude to trade in the recession.
The “green shoots of recovery” from the economic downturn were spotted by 55% of retailers. This was a higher figure than in the young fashion market’s 47%, according to a similar Drapers’ survey of that market last month.

However, the remaining 45% said they were yet to see any evidence of an improvement in the economy.Very few womenswear indies thought the UK would come out of the recession this year, with 52% pinpointing next year as the date when the economy would get back on track.

Although 35% of retailers felt the recession would not end until 2011, just 3% thought it would last longer.

However, despite some evidence of recovery and an optimistic attitude towards trade over the next couple of years, those surveyed remained wary about buying for spring 10. No retailer said they were confident enough to increase their buying budget for spring 10, and those that hadn’t cut their budgets were keeping them flat.

Womenswear indies also said they were minimising product risks for spring 10. The most popular priority for the retailers polled was to back proven brands, showing that any recovery in trading had only gone so far in restoring retailers’ confidence about buying.
Nevertheless, trying new brands and driving good customer service had equal priority. Both were more important to the indies surveyed than cutting costs or marketing their businesses, according to the Drapers poll. In fact, 78% of mainstream indies said they intended to pick up new labels for spring 10.

Domestic trade shows proved the more attractive option for the mainstream womenswear indies looking to attend exhibitions this season. Pure London and Birmingham’s Moda were the top two destinations for buyers. This was followed by London Fashion Week, while international destinations such as CPD in Düsseldorf were less likely to be attended by UK buyers for spring 10, as buyers continue to rein in travel budgets through the difficult trading period.

Ask the Expert relaunched its Ask the Expert service this week. The free service will feature specialist themes each month. This time it will focus on buying tips and strategies. Our panel includes John Lewis fashion buying director Peter Ruis and consultant Frances Card. To ask a question, visit

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