Womenswear the winner at JATC Manchester
A feeling of déjà vu hung over JATC (Just Around The Corner) Manchester on Friday as buyer traffic reflected the experience of the August 2022 edition – worthwhile womenswear attendance was contrasted with a poor showing from menswear buyers.
There was praise for the atmosphere and concept created for this third Manchester event organised by fashion agent Juls Dawson, which this season relocated to the Manchester Central Convention Complex – a event space once known as G-Mex.
Among the majors represented on Friday, the second and final day, were Next, Very, Get the Label, and M & M Direct. Independents included Wetherells department store (Whitby), Urban Surfer (Durham), ODs (St Helens), Nood (Chorlton), The Danish Wardrobe (Cirencester), J W Potter (Buxton), Ruby Shoes Day (Hebden Bridge), TDF (Leeds) and Spiders (Whitby).
Womenswear is the larger part of the show and exhibitors were generally satisfied, with quality of buyers compensating for lack of numbers.
“We have had an OK time. I appreciate having a good early show like this to get an early reaction to the collection,” said Dylan Chadha of womenswear brand Louche, who has exhibited at all three JATC Manchester editions. “I have seen key accounts, independents and a few prospects. The new venue is great, so it has ticked a lot of boxes. It just needs more buzz about the place.”
Ian Campbell Smith of Palladio Agency, who was showing the Rino & Pelle range, is a self-confessed fan of trade shows and he saw the JATC glass as being half full, not half empty: “Footfall has been a bit slow but we have had a good time. We have seen buyers from Scotland, Newcastle, the east coast and the Midlands.”
First-time exhibitor Stephen Joseph of German footwear brand Caprice praised the low-cost, no frills approach of JATC. "I did JATC London last August and I did OK even though the show was quiet, so I thought I'd try Manchester. We need someone like Juls to shake up the show calendar as the big fairs like Pure and Moda are getting ridiculously expensive. As well as having our own London showroom in January, I am doing 15 events around the UK this season and the brand will be at Micam in Milan too. I am spreading my budget around to reach different groups. I don't need to see many customers to make each one worthwhile."
Attracting a lot of buyer interest was first-time exhibitor Black Colour, a womenswear and accessories collection from Denmark. It has been sold in the south of England for several seasons but this was its debut in the north via agent Helen Swatton, who commented: “We love the relaxed and friendly vibe of the show, channelling Manchester’s industrial heritage in this venue. It’s a welcoming and well-connected location for buyers to access easily”.
Helen Barker was showing her new responsible fashion label Fika for the first time. Even though she is based in Manchester, she saw advantages of being part of JATC: “As a small emerging brand, it’s important for us to be seen at events like this. We did Moda in August last year and we will be at Pure and Moda again this season, but we like the JATC atmosphere, which is really cool. It’s been very positive and we have made contacts with people who can introduce us to Very and John Lewis, which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been here.”
Another Manchester-based supporter of Dawson’s initiative is Kally Shukla of JAM Agencies, who was exhibiting five womenswear collections, again for the third time at JATC.
“We have a showroom in the city centre, so we don’t need to be here but I think it’s the right thing to do as I believe the north should have its own show,” she said. “We have opened three new accounts and seen people we know already from the north and Scotland, but I find it really odd that so many buyers don’t attend. They tell us they don’t want to see anything new because they are worried about trade and want to stick to doing what they do. It’s a strange attitude.”
Lauren Brown, owner of Sisters boutique and the adjacent Misters menswear shop in Falkirk, which is a 3.5-hour drive from Manchester, mixed time at JATC with showroom visits in the city. “I could have easily spent a full day at JATC but I had to get home to cover staff illness. It’s 100% worth visiting the show. On my menswear side I didn’t like the look books Fila and Sergio Tacchini had sent me in November and was not going to buy much, but when I saw the actual clothes it was a different story. I could see much better how the ranges worked together. I don’t believe you can buy from WhatsApp shots and emails. You have got to see and touch the collections.”
Fiona Martin and Sarah Marsh of Best Kept Secret Clothing in Harrogate made the 90-minute drive to Manchester city centre for the third time. “We enjoyed our previous two visits because the show has good collections at the price points we require. We are here to see existing suppliers like Saint Tropez and ICHI and to have another look at ones we are interested in, like Haven.”
While there was general satisfaction among most womenswear exhibitors, it was a different story on the menswear aisle.
“Retailers are always saying they want a northern show but they don’t support it when it’s here,” said Connor Poole, who was showing Luke 1977, Alpha Industries and Modern Amusement.
Jane Wright, UK sales manager of MCR Collective, which had five ranges on show, was equally mystified at the lack of support: “We are based in Manchester with our own showroom but we wanted to support Juls and his northern show. I am not sure what more he can do to get the buyers here. It could be that people have got used to working via Zoom or working from home on a Friday, but the turnout is disappointing. It’s nice to see independents but we also want to see our major key accounts here. We have not seen anyone we don’t know already.”
Several exhibitors admitted the show was very late for them to take orders, with books being closed this week, while others mentioned some major buyers could have been in Paris for the menswear shows this week. Most, however, blamed retailer apathy for the poor turnout.
In response, Dawson said: “Despite the inconvenience of the snow on Thursday that disrupted travel across the north we are really pleased with the turnout from buyers supporting the women’s sections of our show and are confident the event will grow next season based on the growing reputation of the northern edition of JATC.
“Our men’s attendance still needs some work and one of the key factors for the lacklustre menswear buyer numbers over the past two days is the recent shift to an earlier selling window for menswear. We have tackled this by pencilling in dates in the second half of July for SS24 for both Manchester and London, which is earlier in the buying calendar.
“Our new venue has been so well received and it is so satisfying to hear how approachable the JATC team are and how user-friendly our event is to both exhibit at and visit.
“One happy exhibitor said to me that although we don’t put on the busiest shows from a footflow perspective, the buyers that do come to JATC are here to buy and are serious about writing orders. Roll on London in 10 days’ time.”
JATC London will be held at The Truman Brewery on 8-9 February.
Main image: Courtesy of JATC Manchester. All other images: Eric Musgrave