Blog: Leonie BarrieRetailers weather the storm

Leonie Barrie | 20 April 2009

The impact that unpredictable and out-of-control factors such as the weather can have on apparel demand was hammered home last week when details of March retail sales in the UK and US were reported.  

Here in the UK, warmer weather boosted sales of clothing and footwear, with the sector for once bucking an overall 1.2% drop in like-for-like sales. In the US, meanwhile, a chilly start to spring meant clothing and footwear sales were down 8.7% on March last year, as shoppers stayed away and postponed their spring wardrobe updates. The late timing of Easter also had a part to play in holding back demand – but should give a much-needed boost to April’s performance.

UK: March retail sales down despite clothing growth
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US: March retail sales slump 3.7%
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With a rebound in the softgoods sector not expected until 2010, thousands of retail outlets across the US are likely to shut their doors this year as companies rationalise their store portfolios in the teeth of the worst recession since the Second World War. But is this a necessary correction, or an overreaction? And how will the retail landscape look once "normality" returns?

COMMENT: US retail faces a leaner future
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In an attempt to deal with the global economic crisis, countries around the world have introduced a raft of stimulus packages – which would seem to support mounting claims of protectionism in the clothing and textile industry. But not according to a new survey, which found the world's leading textile and garment importers have abolished more barriers to trade in the past six months than ever before.

And it seems the US Treasury department agrees. It has refrained from accusing China of illegally manipulating its currency – much to the annoyance of textile trade groups who argue an artificially weak yuan disadvantages US manufacturers.

GLOBAL: Garment protectionism claims no more than a myth
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US: Textile group “disappointed” at Chinese currency stance
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In just under a week's time the world's fourth largest trade fair venue will open its doors to IMB 2009. The event is a firm calendar appointment for many professionals in the apparel and textile sector who are looking for the latest in apparel and textile technology and, to help visitors find their way around, just-style has published previews of some of the products on show.

PLM at IMB - who, what, where, when
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IMB Exhibitor news
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In other news this week, Japanese casual clothing retailer Uniqlo is aiming to grow its online sales in China after signing a strategic partnership deal with e-commerce provider Taobao. Levi Strauss blamed the economic downturn, retail bankruptcies and a weak performance by the Dockers brand after its first quarter profit halved to US$48m. And struggling US women’s wear retailer Talbots is nearing a global sourcing deal with Li & Fung as fourth quarter losses spiralled to US$136.3m.

CHINA: Uniqlo in online tie-up with Taobao
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US: Retail weakness halves Levi Strauss Q1 profit
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US: Talbots reviews sourcing as Q4 losses spiral
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