Bread & Butter Players Overhaul Strategies

BERLIN — With continuing financial instability in European markets, retailers at Bread & Butter here demonstrated an increasingly refined approach to doing business under challenging circumstances.

“The economic situation is very complicated, so we have to focus hard on trends and think about what’s easy to sell,” said José Ángel Usero Til, a trend watcher based in Madrid who advises buyers for Spanish department stores. “You have to be sure when you place an order. Buyers are more conservative than in other seasons.”

Aziz Adibat, the director of Made Man, a menswear store in London, said retailers’ instincts about trends are more important than ever. “The boys are trading up,” he said, noting that his shop’s clientele is more likely to buy a pair of nicer shoes instead of investing in a more diverse wardrobe.

“People in this economy want to make a false impression,” said Darren Conway, buying director for Choice Store in Romford, England. “They’ll go to the end of the world and back just to afford that one item, just to prove they can still mix with their friends and be cool.”

To that end, he said, his store is carrying less stock — ordering 100 pairs instead of 200 pairs, for example — but the price point is up overall.

For their part, vendors said the key to battling a challenging economy is diversity, so they are carving out a presence in a variety of areas.

For example, Paolo Tognazzini, an operating manager for Superga, discussed the shifting Turkish market, where the brand operates a store in Istanbul.

“The Turkish economy grows very fast in an incredible way. But with the big protests, everything can change within 10 days,” he said. Looking to more traditionally stable markets, the brand opened its first store in Amsterdam last weekend.

For many labels, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are some of the strongest markets in Europe, next to the perennially reliable Scandinavian countries. “[The consumers in these places] are quite trendy, more so than in Germany,” Clarks representative Susana Torres Fernandes said about the Benelux region. “In Germany, we sell more casual shoes, but cooler shoes are doing well in Benelux.”

For brands operating in the most hard-pressed European economies — including Italy and Spain — classic styles are the answer. “We are building a collection that is always more user-friendly to the retailer to allow them to perform well but still maintain a bit of fashion,” said Marc Fiebach, SVP of Jimlar Europe AG, which was exhibiting Calvin Klein at the show. The line is popular in southern Europe and expanding in eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary.

On the trend front, lightweight running styles and shoes with technical elements were hits across the board. For example, Lacoste will introduce a lightweight runner in the next year in neutral colors with bright accents on the soles and laces. Clarks also is debuting lightweight and ultra-lightweight models to the European market.