FUTURA MAGAZINE · May / June 2012


..... the sun is finally shining and will continue to shine, we hope for the rest of the summer. This past month has seen torrential rain and April showers that lasted into May adversely affecting retail sales. Customers aren't thinking flip flops when their feet are getting soaked or summery maxi dresses when they are still wearing coats! So we hope that the turn in the weather will boost peoples spirits and get them in the mood for spending.

In this issue, we speak to Deirdre Callaghan of Venus Boutique in Skibbereen, west Cork and to Jason Scott of the IT Department who educates us on EPOS systems. You will also find our regular round-up of news, footwear news, collections for AW12 and a special trade showCover large preview on all the upcoming shows around Europe.

We will be launching a brand new sports trade magazine, Sports-Ireland next month. Read all about it on page 2 and if you would like to be involved, don't hesitate to contact us. We always look forward to hearing from you. See you next time,

Jean Guerin
Features Editor












FUTURA MAGAZINE · March / April 2012

Disappointing News this month.....

.... in the unusual shape of the Irish football team. The 'Boys in Green' will be sporting suits from a UK men's fashion company as they line out at official functions at Euro 2012 -- and they're free.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) selected the newly launched British label Chess London -- with which Irish midfielder Keith Andrews is involved -- to supply the team suits for the European Championships.Cover large
An FAI spokesman confirmed it had spoken to a number of companies in relation to supplying the official attire.
"The company was chosen because their offer was free of charge... and had the full backing of all of the players," the spokesman said.
The ironBannery of the Irish team representing Ireland on the international stage in English made suits is not lost on Irish retailers. Dublin-based tailors Louis Copeland provided the suits for players and officials at the World Cup in the US in 1994 and in Korea and Japan in 2002. Neville Murphy, assistant manager at Louis Copeland, said it was "very disappointed" not to have been appointed the tailor for Euro 2012. "They've selected a UK-based company to do them this year," Mr Murphy said. "We did quote for it but unfortunately we didn't get it this time. We were very disappointed, obviously. We've done it before and we've done it for the Ryder Cup, so we've a lot of experience doing big events like that." It is a sad day when we won't support our own. Moving on to better news, Bow and Pearl in Ranelagh have recently launched online, read the full interview with owner Bronagh O'Sullivan on page 16.
As well as that, we have a special focus on lingerie, weddingwear, schoolwear and accessories in this issue as well as all the latest news, collections and shows. We will see you next month!

Jean Guerin
Features Editor






FUTURA MAGAZINE · February 2012

Retailers Feeling The Credit Pain......

Five years on, and it seems we are living in a very different world!
Back in 2007 banks were handing out mortgages to just about anyone and both banks and insurers were equally being generous to the fashion retail sectors and its associated suppliers. Credit insurance has always been more difficult in Ireland than in the UK but back then it was relatively easy. Now as retailers are being forced to close it has become hard for suppliers to secure credit insurance, thus making it impossible for existing retailers to source new brands while also making it impossible for suppliers to sell in certain towns right across Ireland. Some agents are having to take a personal guarantee with their customers and if they default, the agents are left hanging in the balance.
This, coupled with the tight squeeze on bank lending, is making it impossible for cash strapped retailers to invest in their business, to grow new brands and to consider investing in their business. It leaves them in a "limbo" position to continue with existing brands and unable to take a risk on something new, fresh and different which could help them fight their way out of this current problem.
Smaller retailers cannot survive without cash flow, this is a need which our government and our banks fail to address. Retailing has suffered again with a 2% vat increase and is experiencing the most difficult trading conditions in 30 years and no one is doing anything about it here in Ireland!
Working out credit plans with suppliers is now the normal. No longer can you get excited with a good sale, the excitement comes wBannerhen the account has been paid.
On page 48 our legal adviser, Barry Lee from Adrian Burke takes us through a step by step plan on the legal route to collecting debts.
You may have noticed we have combined our issues this month to give you a comprehensive overview of the upcoming AW12 season across womenswear, menswear and footwear. As well as footwear trends for AW12, we bring you the lastest collection reports from all your favourite brands. With interviews, vox pops, shopcalls and much more, we hope you enjoy this issue. We are back with our March/April issue.

Jean Guerin
Features Editor






A Very Happy New Year To You All........

We hope this new year heralds a fresh start bringing with it positivity and renewed optimism. 2011 was without doubt a very difficult year. Even Christmas time, usually a time of overzealous spending, increased footfall and guarantOctober Covereed sales proved difficult. For nothing is guaranteed anymore. To see how four major retailers fared during the Christmas sales, what they really feel about the 2% VAT hike and their plans for 2012, turn to page 8.


Inside Squares

There has been a lot going on in the world of retail since our last issue, not all of it good unfortunately. On page 7, we bring you the latest on the Barratts and La Senza closures and the industrial action of Primark in Northern Ireland. In other news, we are pleased to announce that the Fashion City Fashion Event is going ahead at the end of February and we will have all the details on that in our next issue.
For all you need to know on upcoming trends for autumn/winter 12/13, head to page 14 followed by our collection reports on page 16. You will find the latest updates on all upcoming shows in Showtalk and reviews of shows that have already occurred such as Showcase Ireland which was the best one yet!
We wish you a prosperous 2012. 

Jean Guerin
Features Editor






Well it's that time of year again...

Well it's that time of year again. No, not Christmas time, Budget time! As Ministers Noonan and Howlin delivered the blows, I couldn't help but think that if Santa is doing his Naughty and Nice list this year, I have no doubt as to which side these guys will be on. The savage new Budget hits people where it hurts, including retailers. Despite much opposition, the 2% increase in VAT has been introduced and despite promises galore, no provision has been made for tackling the upwards-only rent reviews. 2012 it seems is going to be a tough year.

October Cover
In other news, the Chinese Hub in Athlone has been given the go ahead for phase one. It is hoped that this development will give a much needed boost to trade, employment and tourism in the country.

Inside Squares

This is our special trade show issue for 2012 where you can find all you need to know on upcoming shows and our handy event planner with all show dates marked which can be kept and hung up so you may never miss a show!
As 2011 draws to a close, I spoke to some of Irelands' retailers to find out how this past year treated them. To see what they had to say, turn to page 14. From talking to them, I know it has been a tough year on everyone so I hope you all have a very prosperous Christmas selling season.

Jean Guerin
Features Editor










There were gasps and audible sighs....

There were gasps and audible sighs all round with the recent news that Primark is to open a concession in the most upmarket of department stores, Selfridges. A shrewd move or? Time will tell but Selfridges are not the first nor will they be the last to embrace the lower-end fashion market in the hope that it will sprinkle a little of its fast fashion popularity dust on it. Even Versace are now courting the masses by collaborating with high- street fashion giant, H&M. Donatella was previously quoted as saying she would never do such a thing, how times have changed! The collection launches this month so expect stampedes at your local H&M. If it's good enough for Donatella….

October Cover
Closer to home, good news comes in the form of Debenhanms who are set to launch two new stores in Ireland. One in Sligo and the other in Carlow. Speaking of Carlow, Elaine Curtis boutique is celebrating ten years and has launched online! Now fashionistas everywhere can shop the gorgeous collections from the comfort of their own home. Congrats Elaine!

Inside Squares


Turn to page 19 to read our interview with Design Consultant Lara Snider. From working with Anthropologie in the States to White Stuff and Hobbs in the UK not to mention others, this lady knows how to design a shop. If you are a retailer and in need of some ideas, her tips are not to be missed!

In this issue, we also take a look at the schoolwear market and some of it's key players. And on page 24 Jean introduces you to the delights of shopping in Blackrock village.

Jean Guerin
Features Editor





The season is now in full swing.....

The season is now in full swing with trade shows and National Stockrooms taking place around the country - the buying season has truly kicked off for Spring / Summer 2012.

August CoverThere have been mixed reactions so far - Bread and Butter gave a welcome kick-start to suppliers and it prompted a "feel good" mood for the start of the season. Reports since then have varied with suppliers very aware that forward buying will be difficult for yet another season. Stock ranges have the upper hand in these turbulent times and in many cases we have been told that to date, forward orders are down but stock ranges will no doubt gain ground throughout the season. So all in all we hope the season will settle into a more comfortable pattern for everyone.
August Banner
For this months issue, with the help of Alexander Fitzgearld (editor of Menswear in Ireland) we have combined Futura, Menswear in Ireland and Footwear in Ireland to give you a total overview of the season and to cater for all sectors. We hope you will find some useful information here and also avail of our new Stockroom Guide on page 65 and the latest news on Fashion City - a guide to brands and show dates.

We wish you all a good sell in and a good buy in for Spring / Summer 2012.

Jean Guerin
Features Editor







July is upon us.....

July is upon us and with the sun finally out, it appears it's not all doom and gloom in the world of retail. After many closures over the last year, things seem to be taking a turn. We bring you news of new store openings in Kildare, Kilkenny and Dublin in our retail news section. Other good news comes in the form of Clarks and Wortmann who are seeing profits soar. It is a testament to both these brands that they can increase their revenue when so many others are suffering.

July largeFeb-2011-Panel
Showseason is also upon us. Check out showtalk for all the latest on upcoming shows as well as a review of the recent Tissu Premier. On page. 14, you'll find our interview with Karen Radley, director of the UK's latest industry fair, Scoop International.

We also take a lookat ladies and childrenswear trends as well as all the upcoming womenswear collections for SS12. This issue is the start of something new- Spring/Summer 2012- and let us all hope the start of a promising selling season for everyone!

Jean Guerin
Features Editor




All the eyes of the world .....


All the eyes of the world were on Ireland last month as we took centre stage with visits from both the Queen of England and President of the U.S Barack Obama. The mood has generally been one of positivity and renewed spirit. And speaking of positive, we were delighted to hear that Rockport had opened their first stand-alone store on Wicklow Street. Other good news came in the form of Millfield Balbriggan, a brand new shopping centre, the first to open in Ireland in almost 2 years and the gratefully received announcement that 300 new jobs are to be created at Dundrum Town Centre. COVER MAY
For those of you who are not feeling so positive, perhaps a re-fit could be the answer? We talk to visual merchandisers and shopfitting companies about the benefits of their trades and how they can increase your customer base.
Also in this issue, we take a look at shapewear, every woman's secret weapon.
I hope the summer brings good weather and drives customers into your stores. Remember, negativity helps no-one and in the words of Obama, "Is Féider Linn, Yes, we can!"

Jean Guerin
Features Editor







Recession or no Recession.......


Recession or no recession, election or no election, life goes on, and so we're focused on the AW11/12 ladieswear trends in this issue of Futura.
The good news is that there's something for every woman no matter what height, size, shape or taste. The Nordic influence seems to be The Big One — everything from fur (faux, of course!) to braiding, quilting, padding, Pippy Longstocking stripes and fairisle patterned knitwear. Funnily enough, I seem to recall that the last time we had a Nordic inspired fashion trend was back in the 80s, slap bang in the middle of the last recession. It must be fashion's equivalent of mother's stew and apple tart — the comfort food of style. Whatever, I'm looking forward to replacing my big Icelandic cardigan that I wore for a decade until it fell apart!
We're also taking a look at the buzz brands for SS11— the ones people are talking about. Looking at them you would have to say that suppliers are really makingFeb-2011-Cover.jpg every effort to attract the customers with beautiful clothes that whisper femininity.
The recent trade shows are our other big focus. Have you been to one or is it on your to-do list for this month? If so take a look at Claire Franks piece (pg. 21) Claire has some great advice on how to make the most of your time and energy when attending a fair.
The reports coming back from the fairs that have taken place are universally good. Exhibitors, buyers and visitor numbers are all up, so too is the volume of business transacted. The Scandinavian countries and Germany seem to be particularly buoyant. IPSO — the winter sports fair in Munich performed phenomenally well with an increase of 25% on visitor numbers last year. Our UK friends did well too with the fairs to date reporting an upsurge in business.
So what about us? It would seem it's a question of hanging in there. If whatever government gets in tackles the exorbitant rents and rates being charged to business that would be a step in the right direction and believe it or not, as we went to press there was some good news — Showcase reported an increase in sales of 3% on last year. It's a start...
Note to those of you in the footwear business — See you at Broga!

E: jacinta1@indigo.ie




It's Showtime!.......


The first quarter of the year is traditionally when the big trade shows get underway. By and large, the feeling in the UK and on the continent is that things are on the up with virtually every show revealing an increase on figures compared with this time last year.
Here at home there's a green shoot too. The interest level in Broga – Ireland's first dedicated footwear fair – has surpassed expectations and we're all looking forward to a show that focuses on what's positive about the retail sector in Ireland. (See page 20 for an update)
It's also good to note that while we all thought the atrocious weather had dealt retailers a mortal blow, true to form the Irish shopper, suffering from cabin fever, came out in force after the Christmas break and shopped til s/

he dropped, ensuring that the figures at least mirrored those of last year. Nothing to be sneezed at, given what November and December were like ….
So then, it's onwards and upwards. We all know it's going to be a struggle but we also know that hard work and sticking to the task can accomplish a lot. In spite of Brian Lenihan's assertion that "we all partied" during the Celtic Tiger years most of us actually worked for what we got and didn't have the time to over indulge so we're well familiar with the hard work ethic.
But for inspiration, if you need it, take a look a page 9, where we dip into Johan Stenebo's, book "The Truth about IKEA" which goes behind the scenes at Ingvar Kamprad's retail giant.
Now 84, Kamprad (or Ingvar as he prefers to be called,) founded IKEA when only a teenager, in his hometown of Älmhult, in southern Sweden. Today it's the world's biggest furniture retailer, employing almost 130,000 people in 280 shops in 26 countries. Now's there's an inspiring figure, even if, according to Stenebo, he's not quite all he's cracked up to be. But then again, who is?
Finally, have a look at the Collections for AW11/12 (page 22) Really strong commercially with gorgeous tactile fabrics in lengths and shapes to suit all, if they don't get women out spending money we don't know what will.

E: jacinta1@indigo.ie



Welcome Reading for Retailers.......


The latest retail figures from Davy Stockbrokers make very welcome reading for retailers. Issued just as we were going to press, the nub of the report is that retail sales increased by 0.1% fro total and "core (ex-car) sales in May. So far, "core " sales are tracking 1% of annualised growth in Q2, following the 1.3 % quarter-on-quarter gain in Q1. This rate is expected to accelerate towards 2% in the next quarter. Here's hoping.......

futjulcoverThe split of retail sales makes for even better news. Every sub-category of the index grew in March-May compared with the previous three months - with the exception of bars. The strongest growth was seen in furniture and lighting (+8.7%), car sales (+7.1%) and clothing (+5.3%). " Those increases are a positve sign that spending on bigger-ticket items is accelrating " Davy concludes. No doubt every retailer in the country will be breathing a sigh of relief at any little sign of recovery, after what has been such a dreadfully difficult time. Anyone left standing at this stage deserves a medal!

Moving on, it seems to us at Futura that while some valuable lessons have been learnt there are still some serious issues to be resolved. The most important for many retailers, especially in this transition periiod between bust and (we hpe....) boom, is the question of sales. A recently lively debate on Linked In, highlighted the fact that until there is some consensus on when sales should be run, the market will suffer. Unlike many countries on the continent where sales are confined to specific periods during the year, here in Ireland they happen at a whim and unfortunately where one retailer goes others must follow if they want to compete. It's got to the ridiculous stage now that on every day of the week you're bound to find a clothes shop within a mile of you with "massive sale" in progress.

Surely it's time for holding the nerve and applying a little commonsense to the situation?


Jacinta O'Brien, Editor


Childrenswear Feature........


Two very contrasting stories from the retail sector appear in this issue of Futura Magazine. Neal Sweeney of McElhinneys spoke to me about the heartbreak of losing the store that meant so much to his family and the larger community in Athboy. Three years ago such a fate for this iconic business would have been unthinkable but these are indeed difficult and unpredictale days we live in. Meanwhile over in westport, the Portwest arm of the Hughes family business is flying along, with the opening of a new store in Dublin recently and plans underway to avail of the reduced rents and cheaper property to open other stores accross the country. Good news too with the announcement that Disney is to open on Grafton Street. Surely the parents of the children the Disney store will inevitably attract will look further afield on the street and spend a few bob in the shops while they're at it?

futjuncoverThe northside of Dublin is also set to get a boost with plans underway to open the first Forever 21 store in the recently vacated Arnotts Project space. Forever 21 is one of the fastest growing chains in the US with stores in Canada and across Asia too. That the savvy Korean owners, who haven't put a foot wrong businesswise thus far, should choose Dublin for their first store opening in Europe says something about the confidence they feel in the market. So, its not all doom and gloom......

Elsewhere in the magazine we take a look at the Childrenswear market. There's a feeling abroad that childresnwear has been imperbious to the downturn in the economy. Not so, say the players in the market we've been speaking to. Not so, say the consumer reports. The good news, however, is that the market is fighting back with the most successful buyers second-guessing the prices people are willing to pay and finding clothes and apparel that cost less while retaining the quality and look we became accustomed to in the Celtic tiger years. Most report that after the initial shock they're coming to grips with the situation. It's hard to keep a good buyer down!

Jacinta O'Brien, Editor



Twenty Years Ago...........


Twenty years ago, in the middle of the last recession, I edited Futura magazine. I remember well how challenging that time was for retailers and manufacturers; in fact quite a number of the manufacturers who were in ireland in the '80s had gone to the wall by the time the recession ended. it was tough but i'm a little tired of the comparisons being made between this recession and the last. For all that's similar there are gaping differences. Firstly, there's the question of personal debt.

With so many people out of work, or with their salaries severely cut, keeping up the minimum payment on credit cards, let alone Futaprilcoverclearing the balance, is a big problem. What disposable income is left at the end of the month, in too many cases, certainly won't benefit the retailers. But there are still people with money. Witness the recent Simon Community/RiAi initiative. Almost 1,000 people nationwide donated a minimum of €50 to Simon to consult with an architect. Presumably they wouldn't have bothered if they hadn't some notion of building…. There's also the fact that most people involved in retail these days are better educated than in the '80s and more able to avail of the opportunities that present themselves. Some of today's opportunities were unimaginable in the '80s. i'm thinking social networking here. All the retailers in the know are united in their belief that being on Facebook, Twitter, Linked in and whatever else is around the corner, is vital to the survival and development of a business in these challenging times. The good news is that it's there for the taking. All you need is the vision to see it.

At Futura we're making every effort help you see the possibilities the virtual world is presenting. In recent months Greg Canty of Fuzion Marketing has been writing introductory features on Facebook and Twitter (check out part 1 of Twittering in this issue.) Linked in is next on his agenda. If you feel you're being left behind by all this technology read his features; they're clear, uncomplicated and could be your passport to a brighter, more prosperous future. i'll leave you with this piece of information: Designer Diane von Furstenburg ran private sales via Facebook exclusively for her friends on the site. The result? on the day sales were up 250% as compared with the same day the year before. Wow!


Finally......a Chink of light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally ... a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. For the most part the recent spate of trade shows, showing the A/W10 collections have recorded an increase in footfall. In some cases the increase was quite dramatic. SIMM in Madrid recorded a 47.5% increase over visitor numbers to last Summer's fair while Moda in the UK recorded a 21% increase on last year's figures.

FuturaCoverIf things are improving across the rest of Europe surely we can't be too far behind? In the meantime there are things that can be done to help ourselves along. One of the most important is to keep up with the social network revolution. To this end this issue of Futura includes a step by step guide to setting your business up on Facebook. Greg Canty has quite literally spelt it out for you so you'll have no excuse for not being part of the biggest innovation to hit business practice since credit cards were invented! Also in this issue we've concentrated on ways of bringing more people into your premises. One of the ways is to diversify. This year accessories are huge. Women (in particular) have discovered that while they might not need (or have the cash) to buy as many clothes as they would have in previous seasons they can update their wardrobes very effectively with a few well-chosen accessories. Check out the feature on Boutique at Chic (the only forward order fashion accessory show in the UK) where some of the biggest accessories brands from right across Europe will be featuring at the end of April.

Another way of helping your business along is to re negotiate your rental agreement, if that's an option. Check out solicitor Aidan Burke's informative piece on the Rental Market on pg.22. Finally, you may have noticed that the lovely Tara Carroll does not appear at the bottom of this page. That's because Tara decided it was time to travel the world. She's currently exploring Mexico. We hope she has a great time and returns home safe and sound. In the meantime I'd like to thank Jacinta O' Brien for her help in putting this issue together.



Fare well

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This is my last issue of Futura magazine, and I would like to take the opportunity to say a heartfelt farewell to you.

futura feb cover pageWhen I first started working here as an assistant, business was booming, Irish fashion was all about ‘bling bling’ occasionwear, retail expansion was underway at every turn, and shoppers were spending like it was going out of fashion. Eventually, and very quickly, it did. In the two years that I’ve been editor of Futura, I’ve studied countless reports from the Central Statistics Office and Economic & Social Research Institute, with pretty much every one more negative than the first. The fashion retail market has undergone the starkest reversal in fortune Ireland has ever seen, and it looks unlikely that it will ever return to the heady heights it was once at. One thing I am absolutely certain of though, is that with the resilience and adaptability of the members of this industry, it will rise again. I’m sorry I won’t be here to see good times return, because although the Celtic Tiger years are now firmly in the past, the rebuilding of this country’s retail scene is - whether you realise it or not - already underway. The ‘clearing out’ of fashion retailers has been sad in many cases and left many, many more severely weakened, but the long term view is that it will leave the market better positioned, better adaptable to emerging trends and better able to weather any future economic tumbles. There is still uncertainly in the air, but the most positive thing I’ve noticed this season is that attitudes and expectations have adapted to more realistic levels. It may be unpredictable, but what I love about this business is that no matter how old you are the education never ends; there’s always change, innovation and something new to get excited about.

Keeping a finger on the pulse is vital, not just by watching micro-trends in clothing but spotting emerging macro trends in global terms. The power of the internet is not to be underestimated, and this issue marketing guru Greg Canty takes us, on a basic level, through how social networking can help you gain new customers – and why you shouldn’t be afraid of it! When the dreaded ‘R’ first hit, it was met with caught-in-the-headlights stalemate, and everyone seeking safety. Now, fresh ideas and new niches are emerging as creativity peaks in response. Be open to them. Caution in terms of budget is both necessary and understandable, caution in terms of creativity is not! Our trendwatching feature on p.14 looks at how innovative packaging can add value to fashion – now I’m not suggesting you fund packaging for every item you stock, but thinking along alternative lines could be a good idea for your gift wrapping services, your window and merchandising displays or for innovatively memorable customer service. Don’t be afraid to be different – individuality is at the core of what independents are all about.

This business may make you shout, scream and want to pull your hair out sometimes, but we all got into it for a reason. Anyone working within the fashion business will tell you that it’s much more than a job, and with working weekends, summer buying schedules and frequent travels, it really is. But, unlike other jobs, this arena has so much creativity, so much innovation, and so many quirky, colourful characters – it’s all this that make it such a rich, rewarding environment to be involved in. I’ll leave you with a parting thought; remember that, and take yourself back to the reasons why you love it.
Wishing you a world of luck for the future ahead,



New Decade, New Outlook

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Hello, and welcome to the first issue of Futura for a new decade! While most of us are not only relieved to have made it through last year, the dawning of a new decade inspires feelings of optimism and we’re all ready for the change it will inevitably bring with it.

Futura Cover Image Jan 2010If 2009 was a year of adaptation, 2010 will be a year for rebuilding. In the past many retailers have done phenomenally well and recent times have been a wake-up call. The shake-up for the industry has been shocking, but those that have survived thus far have done so for a reason and the market will emerge stronger as a result. Now is the time for retailers to start from scratch, redefine their niche and concentrate on working that to the best of their ability, building up business to a realistic and sustainable level. Talking to retailers they appear to be much more upbeat than this time last year, and they’re concentrated on streamlining their offers. The next 6-8 weeks will be an important time and buyers will be thinking carefully about how and where to spend.

Happily, collections have, on the whole, come up trumps with a wide but relatively simplified range of beautiful knits, fabrics, interesting textures, safe silhouettes and fl attering colours. Trends are relaxed, not the high maintenance ‘bling bling’ style that epitomised the Celtic Tiger decade. No, for 2010 the fashion mirrors a new attitude. Styles are cool in an understated grown-up manner, sophisticated, luxurious in terms of quality and unlike some previously popular trends, deliciously comfortable. For more on this, see our trend summary on pages 20 & 21, provided by global forecasting agency Fashion Snoops. Elsewhere this issue, we talk to Israeli designer Ronen Chen, and take a look at some emerging trends which could influence and help the market including pop-up or temporary retail shops, and the rise of fashion blogging – no longer the preserve of bargain basements and teenage girls, these two issues demonstrate the potential of 2010 – to revolutionise the way we buy, shop and sell!



Survival of the Fittest

F Dec contents

As we come to the close of what has been a truly shocking retail year, there is a sense of relief to have made it this far, and also a glimmer of hope that 2010 will be better.
Things were tough this time last year and we all needed motivation then. Now, after 18 months of buoying ourselves (and the people around us), it is more in demand than ever.

F Dec cover

We didn’t know how long this recession would last when it began, and to be honest, we’re still kind of in the dark on that front. But no-one said this would be short term, and nobody’s going to get out of it by just giving up. On the plus side, things do appear to be bottoming out.
Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office show that for September the volume of retail sales was slightly up, but the value had taken a drop – it seems that consumers do want to shop, but at bargain prices. And although there doesn’t seem to be the same stampede, for another year it appears that shoppers are migrating north, for their groceries at least.
Consumer confidence is at the highest levels for eighteen months, according the latest ERSI Consumer Sentiment Index, and that people are buying, in any capacity, indicates some stabilisation of consumer spending and sales. But we are also all aware of the impending December budget, and while the Taoiseach has as good as promised that there will be no hike in VAT (for more on this see our news piece on p.6), consumer confidence is unlikely to withstand much more taxation.

While we can’t bury our heads in the sand and just ignore all this news, relying too heavily on the numerous statistics and predictions puts us in danger of staying in the economic hole that our market fell into last year.

To quote Charles Darwin on his theory of evolution, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

This sentiment couldn’t be more apt for retail at this moment in time. As we enter into a new year use this opportunity for a fresh look at your finances, stock, buying strategy, style, service and staff – every aspect of your business. Market leaders need to have a clear vision, and at the moment that means they must be optimists, to see beyond to a better future. What is your vision? Where do you want to go? Now is the time to think about this and focus in the right direction for 2010.

In the meantime, I wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas and would like to take the opportunity to thank our readers for their continued support.



Provide magic Christmas Cheer For Customer Spend

With the leaves all shades of orange and the clocks gone back, Ireland should be well and truly into Autumn, but yet again the weather doesn’t seem to be obeying the seasons. The mild climate may have people in better moods than the short evenings usually do at this time of year, but retailers are beginning to despair of shifting the minimal stock levels of outerwear and knitwear they reluctantly bought last February when it was snowing.

F Nov CoverIn this respect, all we can really do is hope that the cold snap weather forecasts are foretelling actually happen soon, but it seems that the end of 2009 is going to be no different for the rag trade than it has been all along – showing us that nothing is predictable, nothing is a ‘safe bet’ and we must adapt to the environment as best we can, as quickly as we can.

Ever important is giving customers what they want, and being in touch with consumers is key. This issue we talked to consumers across the board on what they’re looking to buy right now and how they’re spending (page 12). We also did our undercover shopcall on Madame Kay (page 13) in Dundalk, who really have their target market pinpointed to a tee.

With the most important season on a retailer’s calendar coming up, knowing and working towards specific targets should be on the agenda. So many consumers hate shopping around Christmas time, so making it easy and even fun for them is a number one concern, whether through magical window displays, extra special service or stand-out gift wrapping. If ever there was a time not to meet, but exceed the expectations of customers, this is it.



Autumn Business Essentials: Personality, Quality & Evolution

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The Summer buying season is almost at a close, and as the first Autumn drops landed in stores it was great to see high quality knitwear coming to the fore. Looking around there is a stark contrast between the high street offerings in the department, and that of the independents – summer may be an easy time to buy cheap bits and pieces from anywhere, but for the Irish winter it looks as though consumers really will be going back to traditional tried and trusted buying and searching out lasting quality and individuality.

0909 CoverOne company synonymous with this is Castle of Ireland, who this year celebrate their 75th anniversary – congratulations, Castle! Our piece on p.10 charts the brand’s history and developments. Recession or not, Irish women do love fashion, and there will always be a thirst for something new. This may seem scary but brands need to be careful not to play things too safe for fear of becoming staid. Castle has reacted to the market changes with an evolution of its own, while retaining its signature characteristics.

Celebrating individuality should not be the job of brands alone though. Independents differ from the high street, and this is no bad thing! Taking a good look at and maximising your strengths is important. Just as the best brands have a distinctive personality, so do the best shops. Be clear on your offer, and do make sure you have a point of difference that people will value.

Finally, whether you’ve bought into the old favourites, basics, the exciting brands or a mix, being motivated to sell the Autumn Winter collections is the next task for our retail industry. Good luck with this, and see you next month.



Back to The drawing Board

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At the end of July the Fashion & Footwear Federation of Ireland tied up all its loose ends, and after 75 years of standing for our trade, permanently closed down. The lack of support shown for this independent body is reminiscent of the help our industry has received of late from the government, and now it seems we are effectively, out on our own.

August 09 CoverI cannot count the number of times over recent months that have I heard agents and distributors say that they can wait up to 120 days after delivery for payments, often only receiving money when retailers are ready to buy for the next season and want to ensure their orders will be taken. If banks are not lending, why should suppliers be expected to act as an overdraft feature?

In some ways we are very fortunate that the market in this country is so compact – everybody knows everybody and there is a lot of loyalty involved in business. But some are leaning too heavily on this loyalty. In cases where the retailer is withholding payment, it is often with a supplier they are on the best terms with, thinking they can get away with more when there is such a good relationship there. Relationships are being tested by this attitude, as with insurance nigh impossible to get on retailers, suppliers are taking on the risk themselves.

There is frustration, anger and depression bubbling just beneath the surface of many retailers, feeling let down by the government that introduced the second highest minimum wage in Europe, and allowed office rents to rise above those of New York’s during the boom times, and is now showing reluctance to help our industry, or indeed any other. But by stalling on payments, these feelings are only being passed on to suppliers and making the situation worse.

We have all had to go back to the drawing board and now is the time to re-evaluate business relationships, to begin really working together, with other retailers, with suppliers, and with our industry at large. At the moment it does feel like we need to have split personalities; to seriously consider every aspect of business on one hand, while maintaining an outward positivity and self-motivation for the same business’ sake. Perhaps our feature on ‘Motivating Your Staff’, on p.10, can help with this.



Time to Buy Into Spring Summer 2010 - In More Ways Than One...

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This issue brings you key trends from trend agency StyleSight, along with Off The Rails, featuring central themes, motifs and collection information from some leading brands. The reoccurring themes of nature, safari and the outdoors almost provide a parallel with the state of our industry, where survival and is key and – despite the year so far revolving around cautiousness, estimation and turmoil – green shoots are evident.

July 09 CoverDespite the ebb in trade, and the reassessment that many businesses have undergone, it is amazing still to see independents with dirty windows, scruffy staff and unkempt shop floors (yes, we’re really still seeing this). But for every shop that has given up the fight, there are those stand-out ones who have pulled their punches and are surviving, and these will be the future of our trade. In our Industry Report on p.15, Paul Golden talks to various segments of the trade to see how they’re coping, and the answers reveal a steely determination that, although none will emerge unscathed, this time will pass.

We also include a special supplement this issue, a celebration of Magill-Henshaw’s 40th Anniversary as an agency. Their continuing success is testament to the fact that despite all the highs and lows, a consistent desire to provide the best possible service and keep striving to provide something new and special are what keeps business alive.

With this in mind, it’s time to turn to the buying season and get geared up – if you’re not motivated to buy into the new collections, how can you expect your customers to!?



Green Shoots or Depression - Which Will You Choose?

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I’m almost afraid to put it into words, but I’m going to anyway. Restaurants full at lunchtime, having to queue to order drinks in bars, seeing shoppers with – wait for it – bags of new purchases, and a generally more positive attitude from virtually everyone. Call it the result of some decent sunshine, call it green shoots, but please God, just let it continue!

June 09 CoverDespite signs in everyday life that there has been a shift away from the pinnacle of depression, there are many who are cautious, and overall there is a sense that there is still a very long way to go, doubtless with more casualties, before Irish trade will be back on its feet. News from economists is decidedly mixed with a lot of detailed statistics, variables and estimations. I’m not going to reiterate the negative news that the media delivers us daily, but instead focus on the positives: a recent Ernst & Young report has noted that early 2009 would be the worst quarter for us, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugmann agrees that the worst of the global meltdown is probably over, Davy Stcokbrokers says the pace of decline in economic activity has slowed, and the Economic and Social Research Institue (ERSI) has forecast that the Irish economy will go through a rapid growth spurt from 2011.

With so many statistics, reports and opposing views being bandied around, it can be difficult to know what to believe from day to day. The truth is, the future of the economy is still uncertain, and we’re right in the midst of a global guessing game. One area that is thriving, and that Irish businesses are embracing, is the internet as a source for marketing and retailing, or E-tailing. The growth of consumer spending online is taking away from the high-street splurge, and there is no reason why Irish retailers can’t get in on the multi-channel action. It may seem like a mind-boggling concept, but this platform is not temporary and deserves to be recognised. This month we talk to Aldo Jordan about his online enterprise, Harvest Moon (see p.22) and find out the ins and outs of setting up this kind of business.

While I wouldn’t advocate ignoring the outside world or becoming a recluse, self-concentration is one way forward. Looking to yourself and your business, letting any negative speculation wash over you and trying to maintain a clear focus of where you are and where you want to be will get you into gear as the imminent summer buying season decends on us.



April’s showers may have been metaphorical, but
at least there’s some real sunshine!


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In the aftermath of the hard-hitting supplementary budget at the beginning of April, a couple of things are clear. One: the Celtic Tiger is not going to bounce back quickly, if ever. Two: despite Brian Cowen’s claims that “those who earn the most will pay the most,” virtually everybody will be hit by the new levies.

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The blow to consumer confidence will cause a further, secondary impact on retailers, and while the UK’s budget included at least some reprieve for the trade with a credit insurance scheme, the Irish government has pretty much left the industry to fend for itself. One ray of light is the hope that with the establishment of The National Asset Management Agency, banks will get the cash flowing and lend to businesses again, but how long this will take is currently unclear.

There’s no denying that trade is very tough, but on the brighter side, we’ve had a wonderful spring and it has certainly helped put some of the same into our steps, with consumers beginning to buy into the seasonal offerings. Now that customers aren’t hiding inside any more you need to make sure your shop’s fit-out and fixtures are providing the best service they can. If you’re thinking of sprucing up your space, we’ve got the pick of the services in our Shopfitting and Accessories Feature on p. 10.

We also take a look at schoolwear, one area which is a constant, yet according to the choolwear Association, has got trends. See them and the pick of Irish schoolwear suppliers on p. 20. Elsewhere we have some advice on when to negotiate a rental reduction and Burgess of Athlone gets the shopcall treatment



Are Larger Stores Losing Their Grip?

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On a recent trip around one of Dublin’s largest department stores it was the appalling state of the merchandise that caught my attention – midday with plenty of staff around and items were on the wrong hangers, in the wrong branded segments, in generally unkempt stores.

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A few days later, I was in a well-known chain store when my concentration was again interrupted – this time by staff discussing their wages. While I find a relaxed, open retail environment encouraging, the personal conversation put me off and despite needing something in particular, I left without buying. With customer expectations higher than ever when they spend, multiples with a loose grip on their customer service are losing out and the game is surely on for independents.

Business may be at the forefront of your mind, but giving the customer what they want is integral to this and deserves serious consideration. What differentiates independents, and what often drives customers into them is primarily the level of expert knowledge and treatment provided, but also the offer of something new, innovative, and exciting. This is all part of the service expected, and those who intersperse this correctly with their mixture of core labels will see results.

The second part of our Marketing feature, on page 9, may help you promote your essential point of difference, and looks at some key tips when going it alone. Another way to take the reigns and ride the season out is through looking at how you control each aspect of your business, and what can be improved. There are plenty of business solutions around to help with effective running of retail businesses, as we address on page 8. Also this issue, we have a lingerie special which takes a look at how the sector is changing direction, and why this is a positive move for indies stocking specialist brands.



The bubble has well and truly burst...and with it, our reckless consumerism

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So, the season has begun…but it hasn’t exactly got off to a flying start. Buyers’ sense of caution has been palpable at seasonal trade shows around Europe. This no doubt stems from the outside world where banks are cautious, shoppers are cautious, people in general are cautious.

cover november 2008And perhaps you’ll disagree, but I for one feel that it’s about time. People will not stop shopping, they will just be doing it differently. Twelve months ago, there was a signifi cant proportion of the Irish population that would have happily splashed out on a designer bin-liner just for the thrill of the spend, whether it was needed or not. In the midst of Ireland’s burgeoning economy, would we ever have had enough? Carefully considered purchasing is something that consumers have not done here in Ireland for a long time, and the back-to-basics approach places an emphasis on durability, versatility, and service – something consumers are prepared to invest in and independents are best placed to provide. For a good retailer with a sound offering and well-trained staff, the coming months promise to at least wash away lesser competition.

From the early trade shows it appears that a split buying strategy is emerging, with the brand taking precedence over the trend on one hand, and on the other, a keenness to offer new innovative labels and pieces to entice. Nothing, however, is a sure bet these days, and following the crowd won’t ensure your survival. Instead, aim to do what the brands have done and hone your identity, then market this as your unique selling point.

In the aftermath of a difficult Christmas, it is important that there are always reasons to be hopeful, whether it is the thought of a renewed interest in our heritage, or the extra support brands are finally starting to provide stockists with. Demonstrating a confidence in your offering will breed more of the same, and our Marketing special (on a budget) over this issue and next will hopefully provide you with inspiration on how to make this work for you.

Finally, as we go to press news comes that the Fashion Footwear Federation of Ireland, the voice of the trade, is on the verge of collapse due to lack of support. We at Futura are disappointed that at a time when the industry needs support more than ever, it is neglecting to notice that without the FFF we have no official representation. Please consider the situation (more of which is on p.23), and act upon it.



2009 is here … and there’s work to be done!

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Hello, and welcome to the first issue of Futura for 2009. As we see off 2008, the calm after the storm is beginning to reveal an aftermath that is honestly quite scary. Over the following weeks and months we will see just how hard the credit-crunch hit the busiest retail period of the year, but it is important to focus on the here and now and not waste time looking backwards. If you made mistakes last year, learn from them and move on.

cover Jan 09Almost everybody is heading into the year unsure of what may happen – it seems that for 2009 anyway, nothing is a given. But as one of the more positive retailers said to me recently, “I would always be positive, you can’t afford to be negative.” That’s not to say don’t be careful, but a little bit of positivity goes a long way, and I can understand exactly why this particular retailer finds her core customers coming back to her even as purses tighten – she makes them feel good!

We’re entering a New Year, with a new season, and new collections. You’ll need to choose more cannily than ever at the moment, and this issue we bring you the key trends for Autumn Winter 2009/10, collection reports from top brands, and the low-down on upcoming trade shows to help you do just that. We also have an interview with the man behind that all-American brand, Tommy Hilfiger. His story of determination and a knack for entrepreneurialism despite failing, despite bankruptcy, should be a source of inspiration and motivation to you. Now is the time to really work as hard as you possibly can, do the best you can, every time. Plan your business, assess your strategy, change your business – do whatever it is you have to do to get into shape, because now is the time to really prove to customers that your service is better than your competitors, and you deserve their business. Now go on, and do a Tommy Hilfiger – come out fighting.





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2008 has been a tough trading year. Nobody needs reminding, but with the collapse of the American stock market, the announcement that Ireland is, once again, in a recession, the resulting stringent annual budget announced in October, more and more shoppers heading North of the border (or further afield), and recent CSO results showing the worst retail figures for 25 years, morale is understandably at an all-time low.

cover november 2008Let’s be honest: with some of the largest established firms and family businesses falling with the economy, it is clear that no-one is safe. Which is why it’s imperative that every one of you shape up, ready for 2009. Because, no matter who you are, if you’re involved in this industry, you’ll need to be on your toes and know exactly what you’re doing to survive it. Assess every aspect of your business from staff to electricity use to branded offerings. Streamline, leave no stone unturned in taking a good look at how your business functions, and act upon your findings. Procrastination out of fear will not help you now. Things will not ‘sort themselves out’ quickly – it will take time and a lot of hard work to ride this through.

Many in the industry foresaw this, and are predicting that the next 12-24 months will be a ‘clearing-out’ period of the many lower-end stores that sprung up over the country during the rise and reign of the Celtic Tiger. This need not be considered an altogether negative happening; retailers will be forced to present a clearly constructed, managed offering with distinct direction, and lazy stores carrying generic brands will fade away. Buyers will be thinking more cautiously about how they spend next year – and are absolutely right to do so, recession or not. The Celtic Tiger years instilled a flippancy into our psyche, and it’s time we resumed our appreciation of quality – whether in service, textiles or brands. Caution and quality do not, however, equal blandness. Do be careful, but whatever you do, try to maintain the character and individuality of the store in your stock, this is what will get shoppers spending.

Finally, the festive season is upon us – enjoy it! In the midst of your work and assessment, perhaps the hardest thing we must do is be positive. Atmosphere can make or break a store, so make sure the mood is high from the shop floor to management. In such an unstable climate, attitude is one of the few things you have control over. Don’t underestimate it.

Good luck for the Christmas season, and Merry Christmas!





You’d think that with the buying season coming to a close, things may be slowing down here at FUTURA – but you’d be wrong! Keeping busy, putting in that extra effort and going the extra mile will ensure we all keep the industry ticking along – particularly in light of the recent annual budget, revealed just as we were going to press. Like a storm in a tea-cup, issue here will affect all of us in more ways than one. Thus FUTURA continues to focus on niche areas to supplement core offerings this issue, something we started to look at last month and continue to explore with features on Accessories and Ethical Clothing.

fm1008ciThe Accessories segment has proved to be a lucrative add-on for many clothing retailers over the past few seasons, as consumers opt to jazz up their wardrobe with more flexible bags, jewellery and headpieces that can be alternated easily. With our special, we’ve picked our key trends for S/S09 out from the hundreds that abound for the season. Our shopcall with the beautiful accessories indie Boudoir in Ballsbridge shows how having the right identity for your area and consumer will help establish a firm, loyal customer base, and proves how a retail environment based solely on accessories and gifts can flourish when offered in the right way. Further to our interview with fairtrade and ethical designer Kate Nolan of Fable Clothing last issue, this time we delve a little deeper into the topic, to explore what the term ‘Ethical’ really means, and offer you the chance to educate yourselves a little on the fastest growing fashion area in retail - it is estimated that the organic cotton market will be worth £60 million this year – a 50% increase on last year.

Alongside all this are, of course, the usual suspects, with Showtalk, News from the industry, including the latest from Fashion City and the recent FFF council meeting, and our recently established feature i-opener, giving you a look at some inspiring items.

Our final issue of the year next month, our Trade Show issue, will bring you the essentials to plan your 2009 calendar and take a look at how independent retailers found trade in 2008 – if you have any comments on this, get in touch!





There is a dizzying amount going on in Irish fashion at the moment, as the last couple of weeks have proved. The expanding Dublin Fashion Week continued to establish itself for its seventh season, trade shows were in full swing, Autumn/Winter 08 stock began to hit shop floors, and amidst it all, the Irish media lamented the death of the Celtic tiger daily. Despite the depressing tone of the media, particularly with regards to retail, reports from the CSO show that multiples are the ones being hit hardest so far, and while there is admittedly a lack of major growth in other sectors, independent specialist retailers are managing to keep their head above economic water.

fashion magazine coverThis month sees the introduction of a new item to inspire you when buying; i-opener, a feature which will bring you top tips on seasonal winners, and may help you narrow down your choices when making those mind-boggling decisions.

The saying goes that after every recession there’s a baby boom, as people opt to stay in and entertain themselves cost-free. Perhaps this is the reason for recent high lingerie sales, as it seems that this is one luxury item women are tempted by. And for those of you who are interested in clothing with a conscience, our interview with Kate Nolan, founder of fair-trade label Fable, shows just how possible it is to create fashion minus the taint of its manufacturing background. Next month we’ll continue this look at alternative fashion areas with the Accessories Edition, providing a comprehensive run-through of next season’s top trends in bags, jewellery and more.




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What with all the furore surrounding Irish retailer Pennys/Primark following the BBC Panorama documentry ‘Primark: On the Rack’ and the continuing debate over whether they were right to axe the three factories that were discovered to be using child labour, combined with the recent reports that Irish retail volumes have dropped 4.8% within the last year, it has been a difficult month for the industry.

fashion magazine august But ‘difficult’ is not a new word to us, and what this recession business really signifies is that retailers need to adapt – like the slump of the early nineties, fashion habits will undoubedtly undergo change. It’s in your best interest to change with it. This doesn’t have to be a wholly negative transformation, with cheaper, boring basics dominating. Instead, take this opportunity to get more creative with your sourcing; people are always going to shop, recession or not, but they will be (as I’m sure you will too) more careful in their choices. It’s up to you to tempt them with something different – multiples are finding this increasingly difficult to do in the fast, cheap fashion segment where everything looks the same from Topshop to Pennys, and this is why independents now have the opportunity to turn the tables on competitors

There is always a new niche to exploit and a fresh idea that can be expanded on, as last month’s Technothreads exhibition at Trinity Science Museum proved, with its striking array of alternative new fabrics (turn to page 33 to read all about it). And then there’s organic and eco-clothing, which are so in vogue right now you’d be mad to miss out on their potential. These are all emerging trends, but they are also much more – they are the portal to changing the way fashion is created, developed and maintained. And, as we’ve established, change is the theme of the moment. So, just remember, while all around you are losing their heads (and money), keep yours. Attitude is half the battle to success – make sure yours is positive. Think long term, establish your own style, and don’t just play it safe with bascis. But most importantly, enjoy this issue and this new season.

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