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Time to hunker down, says fashion industry banker

Media Release

Embargoed date: Thursday 18 September

Time to hunker down, says fashion industry banker

Cashflow management is the key thing keeping New Zealand fashion designers awake at night, not surprising in the current economic climate, says Westpac’s Business Manager, Ray Searle.

The results of Westpac’s Fashion Confidence Survey will be released at the Air New Zealand Fashion Week’s Westpac Workroom today [Thursday 18 September], where a panel of international experts will address some of the challenging issues raised by the survey.

Westpac surveyed invitees to Air New Zealand Fashion Week, and received a 25% response from designers, retailers, buyers and stylists, who responded to questions such as: What do you think are two key strengths of the New Zealand fashion market? What keeps you awake at night? How do you achieve success in the current retail environment? How are you placed in the international market, and do you manufacture offshore?

The majority reported cashflow management keeps them awake at night. Other problems were retail difficulties and the economy and the challenge of breaking into new markets.

Westpac’s Ray Searle, who has years of experience banking fashion industry players, says the majority are right to be concerned about cashflow management, but says they should be equally concerned about stock management, which only kept 2.5 percent of those surveyed, awake at night.

“Stock management is directly related to cashflow management, and this is important, especially if they’re producing offshore. It’s important to balance things, so they should be prepared to pay a surcharge for having shorter runs to match confirmed sales, in order to manage their cash.”

Searle says designers and buyers need to concentrate on the things they can control, and not lose sleep, as 7% report, over issues like the economy, which they can’t control. It’s important to keep positive about the things they can control, he says.

“We’re going through harder economic times at the moment. Our designers need to hunker down and get through this, and understand what they can control. You can be swayed by the economy but you can’t change the economy, so you need to look at ways in which you can create improved efficiencies, such as stock management, staffing, rental space…Right now, are you in the best possible location? Is your rent coming up for review right now? It’s a good time to have a close look at these things. It’s not the time to worry about breaking into new markets, as 5% are doing.

“It costs a lot of money to get into new markets. Is it the right move now to put money into something where you’re not going to see the benefit for some time? Really, the challenge is to get through the current downturn, and when things start to pick up, designers can then explore new markets.”

The panel at the Westpac Workroom will be chaired by Pieter Steward, founder and director of Air New Zealand Fashion Week, and will comprise the following experts:
• Ray Searle, Westpac Business Manager
• Patty Huntington, Australasian Correspondent, Women’s Wear Daily
• Brian Long, Founder of PR agency BL-PR, fashion publicist, Miami
• Bryan Eible, runs two Foxy Lady fashion boutiques, Florida


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