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Show report: Positive trading lifts INDX Man

Eric Musgrave
06 February 2023

Don’t believe what you hear from the national media was the main message on the opening day of INDX Man as buyers and suppliers stressed the continuing buoyancy of the independent menswear sector.

The negative messages about the cost of living crisis are not being reflected in the shopfloor experience of many indie traders who came to the Solihull event (5-7 February) on the back of good or very good autumn/winter and Christmas business.

For exhibitors, the supply chain problems of 2022, and the rising costs for raw materials and especially shipping, have largely dissipated, meaning there were few reports of increased wholesale prices for the autumn/winter 23 ranges on show at the three-day event.


Brian Smith, Leaf Clothing

Brian Smith, owner of Leaf Clothing in Newcastle upon Tyne, had prepared for a tough run-up to Christmas, but was pleasantly surprised at how things worked out. “In September, with all the talk of doom and gloom in the media, I was expecting a downturn in trade, but we were 10% up in October, 13% in November and 16% in December. It was far better than I expected. I have a bit of outerwear left because the winter wasn’t cold enough, so I won’t be looking to book much in that category for autumn 23, but otherwise I'm here to find good-looking product that will entice my customers again.”


Fiona Coe & Andrea Aldred, Coes of East Anglia

Fiona Coe from the Coes group, which runs five shops in East Anglia, told a similar story. “We had our best-ever Christmas, but it came very late, in the last two weeks. I suspect customers were put off by the gloomy stories in the press but then they realised they did have some spare cash and decided to enjoy themselves on buying for themselves or others. We are here ready to buy as usual,” she said.

Matthew Rawlings, Douglas & Grahame

Like several INDX exhibitors, Douglas & Grahame, which was showing several tailoring-focused collections in Solihull, had showed at the IMC buying group show in the Midlands the previous weekend. Commercial director Matthew Rawlings said: “Last weekend several retailers were telling us they had had their best-ever Christmas despite the constant negativity in the press. That said, they are still being cautious in their buying for next autumn because they are wary at how spring/summer is going to work out. At least from our side the supply chain issues are much improved and hopefully by the end of the year we should be back to pre-COVID normality.”

“I have got stockists who have stopped listening to the news because it does not reflect what they are experiencing on the shop floor,” said Nigel Pinnock, who was showing Dutch brand A Fish Named Fred. “The feedback I am getting is positive and optimistic. The opportunities now for switched-on independents is phenomenal.”


Neal Dawson, Vedoneire

Neal Dawson, who represents Irish country heritage brand Vedonaire, remarked: “I feel this is a good time for independents given how many major menswear retailers like Debenhams and Burton have disappeared. There is a positive mood but there is still concern about what this year might bring so our stockists have been very considered in their buying, putting together concept collections rather than buying fringe pieces.”

Bob Siswick, Skopes

Tailoring specialists are continuing to enjoy a post-lockdown boom. “Tailoring is a special occasion business these days and there’s still a huge backlog of weddings,” observed Bob Siswick, director of Leeds-based supplier Skopes. “We have a huge stock service on our mix-and-match suits. Our three-piece outfits retail for £250 to £300 and for next autumn we have been able to hold our prices. There is a bit of caution from some buyers about how the year will pan out but we do feel a buzz about the people attending this show.”

Carl Jacklin, Todd's Menswear, Lincoln

Carl Jacklin, who has run the Agatha womenswear shop in Lincoln for almost 40 years, added Todd’s Menswear just before lockdown. Since the post-Covid restart, he too is confident about the role of the efficient indie: “This Christmas Agatha had its best Christmas for 20 years. Of course Todd’s did well also but that was coming from a low base. I feel consumers are definitely coming back to shopping local, moving away from the internet and of course we have less competition from medium-sized and big retailers, who do not provide the service we do.

“We have taken the conscious decision to move away from big brands. With their own shops and their websites, they are often our biggest competitors. I first came to INDX Man a year ago and I really like the product selection here. There are loads of good things for us to consider.”

Now in its ninth year, the show is organised by the AIS buying group and staged at its head office complex in Solihull. Rebranded as INDX Man for this season, it continues to serve as a serious ordering show for a well-defined sector of the branded menswear market.

Running from Sunday to Tuesday, this season it presented around 150 collections in the middle-to-better level. There is a waiting list of brands that wish to attend. Buyer pre-registration stood at around 850, so another good gathering of the trade seems likely this week.

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