Some womenswear independents have curtailed their autumn 18 budgets as tough trading continues to bite, but remain cautiously optimistic for the rest of 2018.
Following UK trade shows Pure London and Moda, several womenswear independents have said they are feeling cautious about the year ahead, while agents observed buyers are taking fewer risks because of the difficult trading environment.
“Our budget was slightly smaller this year,” said Cindy Marritt, owner of Cindy’s Fashions in Sutton Bridge.
“We didn’t do very well with dresses last winter, so that budget was cut quite considerably. I’ve got a gap [in products] to fill, but I didn’t find what we were looking for at Pure. The atmosphere was good [at the show] but the brands didn’t hit it right this season.”
The director of one brand agency said: “Buyers are feeling very cautious. They are looking for value for money, a point of difference and a good margin. They want brands that won’t discount on their own website – that’s becoming more important as each season goes past.”
Lucy Walsh, managing director of The Brand Ambassadors, which represents footwear label Air & Grace, and womenswear brands Mos Mosh and MKT Studio, among others, agreed that buyers are being careful: “Generally boutiques had a really hard January and February, so buyers are a bit nervous but still quite optimistic.
“They are being quite ruthless with their brands. Anything that’s not working they’re dropping. They’re buying more deeply into brands that are working. They’re also holding back on forward-order brands to be more nimble throughout the season.”
Sofia Strazzanti-Lynes, director at agency Innocenza, which represents womenswear brands such as Gestuz and Chloe Stora, said buyers are being risk averse: “They are being very cautious and careful with what they’re selecting. If they’re backing a brand, they’re really going for it. If not, they aren’t taking too many risks.”
However, Jane Stanley, owner of Private Collection in Barnstaple, Devon, said she had bought more than planned this season: “I know lots of people are being hesitant and I went into the season with cutting down [my budget] in mind, but when the product is good and you know you’ll do well with it, you’ve got to buy with confidence.
“My customers are looking for something that’s a bit ‘wow’, so I tend to leave the ordinary to the high street. Price is not always a problem if the product is special. Shoppers see the product first, fall in love, and then worry about how much it is afterwards.”