3 leading fashion indie owners reveal their buying strategies ahead of SS25   

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Fashion indies are feeling optimistic ahead of the new buying season as inflation continues to ease and the economy improves. Here the owners of three leading womenswear boutiques reveal how they’ll be fine-tuning their budgets, brands and product edits in preparation for SS25…  

“I go into all my appointments completely open minded and wait to see what I find on the day”

Isabella Wookey, owner, Willow and Wolf

“I feel as excited as ever approaching the SS25 buying season. With the difficulties retailers have faced in the last few years, brands have really stepped up their game with to secure a place in the top boutiques. It’s a total joy to see!

“SS24 has been a fantastic season for us. We have introduced new brands offering modern wardrobe essentials for women seeking a timeless yet confident approach to everyday style. Price per wear is everything these days, so we have been keeping things classic and cool. 

“I travel all over the world for buying but I particularly enjoy visiting Paris. I try and go to as many showrooms as possible every season and I often find the most interesting brands in unexpected places. 

“I approach each buying season with an overall budget in mind and then I see which brands and pieces really stand out in the showroom; I then allocate my budget depending on that. I have a good idea in my mind of previous sell-throughs, but I also believe the key is to change things up and keep them fresh. For that reason, I go into all my appointments completely open minded and wait to see what I find on the day.

“My number one buying rule is that I only buy what I love. I invest in the pieces I feel most passionate about and find, as a general rule, that this strategy works. I appreciate all different styles, so feel I can capture most audiences buying this way. I also know that if I love something it will be the same for my customer. 

“I’m a total shopaholic myself and the moment I enter a showroom I can literally feel the endorphins releasing. That is the most wonderful thing about buying for me – it is an escape and a type of therapy. The idea that I can bring the same feeling to my customers walking through the doors of Willow and Wolf is the biggest reason that I love doing what I do.” 

“I’m cautiously optimistic for SS25 but with the right product edit, I feel ready for a strong season”

Deryane Tadd, owner, The Dressing Room

“SS24 started fairly slowly but really ramped up through April and May. Denim has been a standout category as expected with the move towards separates and away from dresses. Denim shapes and styles are so varied this season that there is something for everyone, which is great and has reflected really well in sales across all of our denim brands.

“For SS25 I will be visiting showrooms and trade shows as much as possible. I’m cautiously optimistic, but with the right product edit I feel ready for a strong season. I love scouting out newness and seeing what existing brands are up to. Trade shows are great for this and give a strong overview for the season ahead. This summer I’ll be visiting CIFF alongside Scoop and Pure.

“I start the season with a full data analysis and merchandising analysis on performance of the season, I do love a spreadsheet! I then set my budgets based on how I feel the coming season will trade and then add in some movement for trends and variables. I always leave myself room to react in season, with a buffer of 20-30 per cent. However, everything depends on the individual collection and brand when I see it. If it is particularly strong, then I will increase the budget and take it from elsewhere. Likewise, if a collection is weaker than hoped then I move that budget to another brand. Everything has to earn its space in store – more so than ever these days.

“There’s a large element of buying that is down to instinct and gut feeling, particularly for independent retailers. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing my customer, knowing what she will love and also knowing the trends to push the boundaries with.

“I love the variety that buying for my business offers; I get to see so many different collections, brands and agents throughout the season. Seeing and embracing new product, brands and trends is inspiring and makes the legwork and hard graft worthwhile. Because, let’s face it, a full buying season is absolutely exhausting!

“I’m always excited to see newness and see how brands and agents are adapting to the challenging marketplace. For SS24, the collections were strong, had variety and a more transitional feel, which was required – let’s see what SS25 can offer!”

“Just because something has performed well in the past doesn’t mean that it will in the future”

Bethany Scott-Morris, owner, Iris and Violet

“It’s early days, but we’ve had a great start to SS24 trading despite a delayed start with the warmer weather. This definitely helps to make us feel positive as we move into the buying season for next year. We’ve seen some really strong collections so far from some of our brands that we know will do well for us. Some of our brands have really listened to the feedback that retailers have been giving them and have produced something that feels fresh and taps nicely into the trends we’re seeing at the moment. We’ve picked up a couple of new brands over the last year which feel really new and exciting, so we’re approaching SS25 with plenty of optimism.

“There’s been an interesting shift over the last couple of years and we’re definitely noticing that just because something has performed well in the past doesn’t mean that it will in the future. Our customer is looking for something that she really loves and knows will see her through the seasons. We took a slight step away from printed dresses this summer, having struggled with them in SS23, and have instead invested more in co-ords, block colours and pieces with interesting fabric detailing. This strategy has worked well for us so far, with customers seeing the value in buying separates that can be worn in so many different ways. We still do really well with dresses but we’ve just opted for a slightly different approach with our selection this year.

“For SS25 buying season we’ll make sure to see all of our current brands in person – usually at the showroom. We make time to go to London about once every six weeks, both to see new collections but also to look in the shops and see what’s new. For some of our accessories brands it makes sense to seem them at trade shows. This is also the place where we tend to pick up new brands, too.

“Each season I pay attention to our spend per brand and will allocate larger budgets to some and smaller to others. But we’re also prepared to be flexible, especially if we see a really strong collection then we’ll spend a bit more there and keep things tighter in a different area instead.

“We always react based on what has sold well in previous seasons, although this isn’t always a rule we can follow. We try and keep our range new and exciting and pride ourselves in stocking pieces that you can’t find anywhere else on the high street. Because of this, we’re always looking at ways we can bring something new to our offering while maintaining the Iris and Violet feel that our customer knows and loves. The easiest way to do this is to react on gut instinct. You can never be 100 per cent sure about what your customer will want in a year’s time, but choosing pieces that you genuinely love is always a good place to start.

“I was a fashion buyer for nearly a decade before opening Iris and Violet, so buying takes me back to my roots which I love. Heading into the showrooms always makes me excited for the upcoming seasons and we’re always impatient for the stock to arrive. I definitely get a buzz after a day buying and it’s exciting to picture it in the shops over the coming months. After an optimistic start to the year, we’re hoping to continue on this trajectory into SS25. Time moves so quickly in retail and you’re always getting ready for the next thing.”