With a lengthy lay-off from being able to put on physical trade shows due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Scoop and Pure London were back this week joining forces in one show format, titled Scoop x Pure, at the Old Truman Brewery on East London’s Brick Lane.
Exhibitors overall felt that it was great to be back and meeting customers face-to-face again, and evidently there were plenty of orders being written. The buzz was back.
Contributing Editor Tom Bottomley found out what some key exhibitors had to say, gauging the mood of the market and the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months. Resilience, buoyance, despair and laughing in the face of adversity – it’s all here.
Milan Ramanandi, Commercial Director, Palladio Associates
Showing: Hartford, Rino & Pelle, DL1961, Chaser LA, Baye, Ecoalf, Dilli Grey, Pom Amsterdam, Rose & Rose, Murphy & Daughter, Feri, Dream, Thunder Love and Flamingo Life
How has your SS22 selling season been?
It’s been pretty much back to normal, with customers coming back in to our showroom with an appetite to see new brands. We’re really excited about SS22 and moving away from the disaster of COVID and Brexit.
Is there a new focus to what you have brought to the show?
We’ve brought a lot our sustainable brands which have been a focus for us in the last 18 months, as there seems to be a lot of consumer appetite for them. Ecoalf is one of the pioneers of sustainable fashion, and that’s had a really good reaction. New for us is Feri, a brand which has really beautiful printed dresses, very relevant for womenswear at the moment, which are made out of orange peel. On footwear, we have Flamingo Life from Spain, will shoes made out of corn waste and bamboo waste.
How have you found the show?
The show has been brilliant. The first day was super busy, as was day two. Considering it’s quite late in the season, there’s still a lot of buyers coming in and adding to their SS22 buy, so we’re really happy. We’re chasing some final orders for the season and still have some showroom appointments booked in for next week. It seems that production time has been extended a bit, which gives us a bit of breathing space.
How have you found the mood from retailers?
The mood is actually really buoyant. It’s been great to welcome back the buyers into the showroom, and they’ve all pretty much wanted to come back in to the showroom too, so very few Zoom appointments across the board now. There’s definitely an appetite to look at new collections as well sticking with what they currently buy from Palladio, and that’s really helped us this season.
So, is wholesale still very important for brands despite a lot having to pivot to online direct to consumer sales with stores forced to shut for such for long periods?
Wholesale is still 100% very important. We’re actually seeing growth from this SS22 selling season. Yes, there is a lot of direct to consumer, or business to consumer, sales going on, but a lot of the independents we work with are still bricks and mortar. That’s their bread and butter, and while they may have done a website or started utilising Instagram to be selling more, ultimately they’ve still got their revenue from a bricks and mortar shop. The brands benefit hugely from customer loyalty to those independents who do such a fantastic job.
Have you been facing any issues with delivering orders?
We’re still encountering delivery issues at the moment, with a lot of the brands shipping but not perhaps putting a commodity code down. That means shipments get stuck in customs and then you have the whole rigmarole of finding those orders and trying to get them to the stores that have paid for them. There’s a lot of ‘admin’ work for us right now, but I think from SS22 we should have a lot more things ironed out, which should make it a cleaner process for customers getting their stock.
Lucy Walsh, Owner, The Brand Ambassadors Agency
Showing: Sirens, Stardust, Poppy Field The Label and By Malina.
When did you start your agency and what are you showing at Scoop this time?
I launched my agency six years ago with three brands at Scoop, and I’ve been coming back ever since. This time I have two British brands, Sirens and Stardust, Parisian brand Poppy Field The Label, and Swedish designer label By Malina. Poppy Field The Label is designed in Paris but made in Bali. It’s a sustainable brand and it’s made in a female owned factory, which is rare, and it only employs women. Everything is sustainable, even the plastic they deliver the product in is biodegradable. By Malina is our premium label, and that’s been amazing.
What’s been selling well for you for SS22?
I’ve never sold so many dresses across the board. Everybody thinks that next spring is just going to be nuts when it comes to weddings, parties, people dressing up to attend the races at Ascot and so on. We have a dress from By Malina that will retail at £410, but it’s been pretty much on everybody’s order book. And, with Sirens, in the first hour of the show we opened 10 new accounts, with retailers from Ireland being particular keen. Beachwear and swimwear has also been selling very well, most likely in anticipation of holidays abroad being back in full swing next summer.
What dresses from Sirens have had a big reaction?
There’s a real 70’s feel to them which has been going down well, and one which is a nod to Michelle Pfeiffer’s look in ‘Scarface’, as well as the famous 70’s New York nightclub Studio 54, and what the famous faces wore there. All of the prints are hand-painted, exclusive to us, and everyone just loves all the vibrant colours. They’re easy to wear dresses with shirred elastic backs so they’re really comfortable, and nearly all of the dresses have pockets – even the evening wear gown. Women are loving that.
What has the mood from buyers been like?
The mood has been electric. There’s a real buzz as everyone is so delighted to be back. Then even been lots of buyers who have come to the show who have done all their buying, but they just want to be here and rub shoulders with other buyers and agents, and feel like we’re part of a community again. Even those people who have said they’ve spent all their money for the season have been so excited to be here that they’ve been spending that little bit more.
What’s the last 18 months been like for you as an agency?
It’s been really tough, but we’ve had to keep going. Agents have not really been mentioned when people have talked about how difficult it’s been through the pandemic. The brands and retailers have certainly been mentioned, but the agents are the glue that hold everybody together, and so many of us have fallen down the cracks because we don’t have a permanent showroom, and lots of us haven’t had a single penny from the government.
On top of which, we’ve had our commission cut to a quarter of what it’s been, we’ve had orders cancelled and we’ve lost brands and retailers. Having said that, we probably deal with about 150 retailers and we’ve only had two permanently close. But then we work with really good customers with solid businesses. Those that did close were probably ready to close anyway.
What have retailers been saying about how business has been?
I’ve had loads of independent boutiques that have said to me that year-on-year this has been the best trading year they’ve ever had, because their online business has just gone nuts.
A lot of retailers have had to push themselves out of their comfort zone and they’ve been doing videos on Instagram, including styling sessions, and they’ve put themselves in front of the camera instead of behind it. They’ve really embraced social media and that has really elevated their businesses. People want to buy from people, and customers understand that these are small businesses and there is so much loyalty for them.
Ed Fife, Sales Manager, Egomark London
Showing: Silk95 Five
How long have you been working with Silk95 Five and how would you best describe it?
This is only our second season with Silk95, and the first time we’ve shown it at Scoop. We are looking after all the distribution for the UK and Europe. The brand is 10 years old and is out of California. It’s a silk collection with a point of difference. It’s washable and stretch silk, which is quite unusual and it’s very versatile – with dressier options for evening, and some great day time options as well. The solid colours are very vibrant for SS22, including lime, apple, sea blue, sky blue, turquoise, fluorescent pink, that give a strong alternative to prints. There’s a lot of printed options out there in the market, and this really diffuses that.
What are the key pieces?
The key pieces include structured dresses, tiered block colour skirts, silk trousers, loose fitting blouses and some gorgeous shirts, with or without pockets, as well as elegant slips. Prices go from £195 retail. Being stretch silk it’s really about the comfort. It’s a very chic collection, without massive designer prices.
What has the reaction been like?
The reaction has been fantastic and we’re starting to get a lot more traction from strong independents. It’s been fantastic to be ‘open’ for business so to speak, and in a trade show environment again - seeing people who are clearly enjoying seeing and touching clothes again, especially outside of a showroom.
What do you think about the timing of the show?
It’s quite late for us to be fair, but we’ve extended our books to accommodate the trade shows and we are getting more traction with buyers who wouldn’t necessarily get to see the range. That’s great for us because it opens up a few more doors and puts the brand and product into peoples’ minds.
What’s your take on business right now?
The future is obviously still unsure, but recently it’s been really buoyant and positive. A lot of the stores we deal with do have online presence, which has helped through the various lockdowns, but I also think people are supporting independent businesses more so now than ever. It’s the time of the independent, and that’s the most important thing. And people are starting to spend and dress up more after being dressed down in tracksuits and loungewear for too long. We’re seeing a real interest in more glamorous dressing for women for sure.
How did you cope with appointments during lockdown?
We are mainly showroom based, though during the lockdown we relied heavily on Zoom appointments which people have not tended to mind, but it’s harder to manage and very time consuming because decisions have to be made without seeing the actual product. Now we’ve properly opened back up, our appointments are more like 80% showroom and 20% Zoom. There’s a lot more jeopardy in ordering on Zoom, especially making colour choices, so as a distributor for us to take that risk is quite worrying, but so far, so good.
As Egomark London is multi-brand business, how have you found delivering orders?
Deliveries have been very painful due to Brexit and the pandemic together. We’ve had a lot of slow deliveries coming out of Europe and that has been a bit detrimental. We’re still delivering AW21 in part shipments, so there are delays. It’s not ideal.
How are you feeling about things going forward?
It’s been really hard, and everyone has had to re-energise themselves in the business, but going forward I think we’re in a good place. I think fashion is generally reviving itself.
Anna Park, Founder, Primrose Park, and owner of Anna independent stores in Primrose Hill, London, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Woodbridge in Suffolk, Burnham Market in Norfolk, Holt in Norfolk and Saffron Walden in Essex.
How have you found the show?
It’s been very steady for us, but I would say it’s not been as busy as usual – when it was only Scoop and earlier in the season. I prefer it when Scoop and Pure are split. One thing I have noticed is that some people have thought we are too expensive for their stores, but we are used to being more of an entry price rather than a top price. Also, I think peoples’ budgets are compromised because of them spending earlier in the season. I know myself from being a retailer (for the past 26 years) that I literally have hardly any budget left at this time. And we have to get in orders as well, so we have to encourage people to quantify here.
Do you design the collection yourself as well?
I do all the shapes, but I work with a print designer. We do the colours together. It’s really easy dressing. I’m not a brand that’s trend driven, and I’m not a brand that is age driven. I think you should wear what suits you, regardless of your age. I keep best sellers within the brand, we just the change the prints. I will take a shape out of the collection only when the customers start telling me they don’t want it any more. Why fix it if it isn’t broken?
We have our ‘Sandy’ blouse which is in our collection every single season. It works for every age and every size, and it’s been in the collection since we started the brand six years ago. We’ve got eight prints for SS22, and we’re selling seven out of eight. We work with silk, Viscose and cotton. Over the whole collection, our prices range from £85 to £399 retail.
How have you found the last 18 months as a retailer and a wholesaler?
Being retail and wholesale has been a real, dare I say, head f**k! Because I’m a retailer, I know how hard it is, but because I’m a wholesaler, I’m not a bank! So, it’s been really difficult to juggle that. When people have said they can’t pay me, I’ve really just not known what to do. Our clients have generally been absolutely brilliant though – they’ve been very loyal and have come back.
This season, sales have risen massively for us again. I understood why we didn’t do so well for the AW21 season, because of the nervousness of everyone. I was nervous myself as a retailer. But who would have predicted what we’re seeing now? It’s so busy. Both sides are good at the moment, retail and wholesale.
What’s your outlook going forward?
My outlook is good. I do think as an independent it’s great. I think as a brand such as ours, it’s great too. We make our own prints, they are all exclusive to us. You will never see them anywhere else. The uniqueness is great, as is the price. The fact that large multiples are closing will affect the high street, and the high street might become residential, but what we’re finding is these neighbourhood pockets where people want to shop in an independent.
They want to have a coffee from an independent, they want to have a sandwich from an independent. They want a community. I think, if anything that Covid gave us, it gave us this feel of community. People were saying ‘hello, everything okay?’ and ‘stay safe!’ You were talking to strangers, who then became a community. You saw them every day, you’d seen them always before, but now you talk to them!
Jo Wallis, Sales Director, and Sarah Edwards, Distributor, Oneseason
Do you normally show at Scoop?
Jo Wallis: Yes, we’ve shown at Scoop for about eight years, though obviously not for the past two seasons prior to this because of Covid. It’s fabulous to be back! Sarah is my sister, and the whole ethos of the brand is that we’re a big family and we’re friends with our clients, so not being able to see them has not been great to say the least. We’ve missed that connection and it’s great to be reunited. The show has not been as busy as it has been in the past, but people have to come by train and some are obviously still a bit scared to travel on public transport.
Has the later show schedule had any effect?
JW: It’s had a bit of an effect for sure, because we usually put in our orders in July. We have a deadline we have to meet at the end of this week! Because our brand is Australian, we’re a season behind them, so we have to get our orders in at a specific time. We’d prefer the show to be earlier, but we’ve certainly been writing orders here. In fact, we’ve run out of order sheets! That’s a first.
Have you had to adapt the way you operate to make it easier for retailers to place orders this season?
JW: Because of COVID-19, we’ve changed the structure of ordering by sending out a video and look-book to clients so they can order more easily online. I would say that two thirds of our customers have ordered that way, and then we’ve taken orders at the show from existing clients, as well as picking up some new clients.
We don’t have a showroom, we’re based in Gloucestershire and that’s where our warehouse is. We’re very much about supporting the boutiques. We don’t sell the brand online. You see it, you buy it, it’s gone. It keeps our brand fresh and exclusive.
How would you best describe the brand’s offer?
JW: It was originally resort wear, but because of the success in the UK the designers have definitely gone a lot more into day wear that you can wear in more of a British summer.
How long has the brand been established?
Sarah Edwards: The brand has been going for 12 years and we’ve been the UK and European distributor for it for 10 years. I discovered it while in Australia, and actually bought four or five pieces for myself at the time.
How has Brexit effected your distribution in Europe?
SE: We distribute across the whole of Europe, but because of Brexit we’ve now had to set up a new distribution base in Lisbon because the additional costs were proving ridiculous. It’s changed everything and it’s been an absolute nightmare! We’ve also incurred increasing costs bringing goods in to the UK, so our overheads are bigger, but we’ve tried not to pass on added costs to our clients, or we’ve kept any rises as low as we possibly can.
How have you found the mood among the retailers you supply?
SE: The mood has been fantastic. We feel like it’s almost the time to be independent. It’s their time. A lot of the high street shops have just shut because they’re big players who haven’t been nimble enough to adapt, and the independents have had to get going and they’ve picked up more clients, with more money in their pockets. Also, I think peoples’ view of fashion has changed. People are thinking about spending a bit more on something that will last longer and not buying cheap fast fashion.