The importance of seeing the new season’s collections in person is really coming back in to focus this season, with buyers back in the showrooms making their AW22 selections by hand, following such long periods of having to buy digitally due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Gone is the understandable air of caution that was needed buying a collection via a screen, where exact colours and fabrics are difficult to make out, and making a return is more assured decision making.
Love Brands Head of Menswear, Jason McKey, says: “We launched the JOOP! collections in AW20, then came the Covid-19 pandemic which made it near impossible to gain new business going into SS21, especially with a brand that hasn’t been seen in the UK for over 15 years. We did the Teams and Zoom calls but trying to gain new customers was tough, as buyers obviously prefer to see and feel the product. However, the relaxing of the Covid rules has helped massively, with a willingness to get back into the showroom and a level of normality for both buyers and sales staff.
“The difference it has made has been fantastic with new accounts across the UK buying into the collections. The feedback across both the JOOP! and JOOP! Jeans collections has been very complimentary, highlighting strong colour pallets, and key areas like tailoring and outerwear.”
The feeling from buyers is mutual, as Alison Owens, Menswear Buyer at Daniel department store in Windsor, commented: “Being in the showroom again has been fabulous! To be able to see and feel the products makes all the difference. I wouldn’t have bought so heavily into JOOP! men’s apparel without seeing the brand in person. The relationships you build online are not the same as in person.
“The quality of JOOP! was outstanding, and being able to put outfits together is key for a good selling season. You simply can’t do that online.”
Following her recent buying appointment with Guess at Love Brands, Very Womenswear Buyer, Claudia Kershberg, was equally upbeat to be back at doing what she does best. “Being back in showrooms has been amazing as it makes such a difference being able to range build the product,” said Kershberg. “Walking through the collections with the account managers allows for so much more natural conversation, ultimately leading to understanding the range better.
“The development on outerwear has been super strong. We’ve had a great AW21 on the category, so it’s amazing to see the updates in terms of fabrication and colour.
“Also, trying on the clothes is paramount to really understanding the fit and feel of particular garments when buying, as they are essential factors when you’re so customer focused.”
After another Guess showroom appointment, Anushka Parmer, Accessories Buyer at Frasers Group, said: “Being back in the showroom is so important to get a real feel for product and for range building, as it’s much easier to put my buys together and imagine what the selection will look like on the shop floor, as opposed to buying off cads where often the image is poor.
“It’s been great to see some special pieces, such as the Guess sequinned bags, and also to see on trend colours such as Bottega green. Additionally, you can’t make out the true size dimensions of the bags without coming into the showroom and seeing the collection.”
There were of course spells where buyers could visit showrooms last season, with safety precautions firmly in place, but some understandably decided not to, having got used to placing orders online and not wanting the overall Covid induced hassle.
For the majority, however, in-person works best, and with most buyers now coming back to the showrooms with fresh gusto, UK trade shows are also firmly back on buyers’ schedules. That’s why Love Brands was showing Guess, Kendall + Kylie, Nü Denmark, ANONYME and Munich footwear AW22 collections at the Just Around The Corner show this week, at The Truman Brewery, on London’s Brick Lane – from 8-10 February 2022.
Love Brands Womenswear Sales Manager, Isabel Marks, said: “Whilst the way in which we sold during the pandemic changed, I also tried to ensure that I still saw customers “in real life”, whilst wearing a mask and social distancing.
“For many of my indies, what they have missed the most is the experience of a trade show, with the chance for them to interact with multiple brands and other buyers all in one location.”
There will certainly now be an element of mixing up the way in which collections are bought, especially on basics and replenishment stock, where online works just fine. But the buzz of being back in a showroom or a trade show, and now without a protective mask and with no social distancing in place, is not to be underestimated. It’s why the best buyers do what they do, and we look forward to welcoming more in our showrooms very soon.
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