Show report: A solid performance from INDX Woman
Steady as you go was the mood at INDX Woman this week (23-25 July) as the trade event in Solihull delivered its usual solid performance for visitors and exhibitors.
This season the show has been moved from its usual two-day midweek schedule to run for three days, starting on Sunday. The jury is out on the popularity of the move, which brings the womenswear event in line with INDX Man, which was held a week earlier (read our Show Report here). The INDX shows are organised by the AIS buying group but are open to non-AIS retail members.
In favour of the extra day was Lee Wood from the sales team at Joe Brown’s, which showed at both events. “INDX Man was good last week, but the womenswear show is always busier for us. Sunday was a super-busy first day and after a bit of a slow start, Monday was much the same. I’m glad they have added an extra day so we can pace things a bit better. We have seen retailers from the south-west, the north, the East Coast and the Midlands – most parts of England in fact.”
Less convinced is Noreen Puri, co-owner at Pomodoro and a veteran of many UK trade shows: “It’s been a good show, as usual, and we have seen everyone we wanted to see thanks to our appointment system. But I am not in favour of the move to Sunday or the extra day – a lot of buyers, especially those working for AIS members, don’t like to give up their weekends, so you don’t see them on Sunday. Two days is enough for a small show like this.”
Kirsten Schueller, country manager UK and Ireland for Danish brand Soya Concept, also prefers the shorter duration. “They should stick with two days but open for longer hours, say 8.30 to 6 instead of 9 to 5, certainly on the first day. Having canapes and a fashion show at 5 (as happened on Sunday) is all very nice but it takes buyers off the floor.”
Soya Concept was back at INDX Woman for the first time since COVID restrictions were lifted. Schueller also brought to the event for the first time Wasabi, a related brand aimed at curvy women that she launched at the rival Moda show in February this year.
“We have had a very good reaction to Wasabi and Soya Concept here, but I expect more. I am very demanding,” she says. “Seeing existing customers is nice, of course, but the show needs to pay me back for my investment with new customers. By early Monday afternoon I’d only opened two new accounts for Soya.”
Feeling better about the turnout was Sarah Burns, from the JUST Agency, who was selling Danish brand Ichi. “I wondered whether the Sunday opening would make a difference to footfall, but it was fine. I saw six existing accounts, two new ones and made new leads on the first day. INDX Woman is a good show for retailers who, for whatever reason, don’t make it to our Ichi showrooms in Manchester and London.”
Echoing a widespread opinion among suppliers, Burns reported her stockists had endured a mixed spring-summer 23 season: “It’s been mainly weather-related, of course, and people have been left with stock. We have noticed some buyers are not forward-ordering so much for spring 24 but are making a note of what they like with the idea of getting it from our stock service in season.”
INDX Woman this week had 110 collections on show, including about 30 new exhibitors, across clothing, accessories and footwear, categories that were brought together for the first time last season. Among them was Kent-based Chalk, which supplies womenswear, homewares and home textiles. Founder Lisa Hemingway had a good time last week at the Harrogate Gift Fair and the positivity continued in Solihull.
“It’s been better than I expected and I have taken more orders than I expected,” she said. “We already work with some nice creative independents and I am here mainly to try and open with the AIS-type independent department stores. I am sure many places could support two Chalk stockists as boutiques and department stores have different approaches. I must say INDX is a very nice place to show and the people here are very nice to work with.”
The show was split between the larger Platinum Suite and the Diamond Suite, both on the ground floor. The latter seemed very quiet on Monday. “Footfall could be better in this room,” said Clive Ivins, who was showing Sorbet, another new Danish brand from the DK Company stable that is handled by his wife Annette Ivins’ agency. “We had a good time at JATC in London last week, but I am here mainly to meet AIS members.”
Visiting buyers were ready to write orders, as is always the case at INDX events. Claire Wright, owner of Gemini in Stratford upon Avon, has 38 years of retail experience and shrugged off this year’s patchy trading: “Spring 22 was a good season, but spring 23 has been challenging. The weather didn’t help and March was the low point, but our good customers have remained in high spirits. We had a fantastic June and we are on target for sales, but it all feels a bit flat.”
In common with many buyers visiting the show, Chris Wood, owner of Papillon boutique in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, remarked that cost of living issues had not affected her customers: “Our local restaurants are still full, so we are not moaning about trading. That said, I wouldn’t look to go for any higher prices at this time.”
Valerie Harden, buyer for Glendoick Garden Centre in Perthshire, had a 3am start to get a flight from Edinburgh to Birmingham to spend a day and a half at the show. “It’s a struggle to get here from Scotland but it’s less expensive than visiting London,” she said, highlighting one reason the Solihull events are popular with independent buyers. “This one of the better shows we attend. It’s been business as usual for us on fashion this spring-summer. Homewares and plants have seen more of a downturn simply because people bought so much in those categories during lockdown.”
With plenty of rivals in the womenswear fair calendar, including Pure, Scoop, Moda, Harrogate and JATC, INDX Woman does not have the dominant position enjoyed by INDX Man, which for the mainstream menswear market is complemented only by the IMC buying group’s two-day private event, which was also held in the Midlands this weekend.
One experienced visitor described the quality of exhibitors at INDX Woman as “patchy” but once again it proved to be a very effective marketplace for suppliers to meet with retailers who were ready to place orders.
Next season INDX Woman reverts to a midweek two-day schedule, on Wednesday 31 January and Thursday 1 February, due to show congestion at the Cranmore Park venue. It will be held on three days, Sunday to Tuesday, 21-23 July, in a year’s time.
Images: Eric Musgrave