The journalism checklist of Drapers
October 26th, 2016
Born and raised in Leeds, Eric Musgrave, arguably one of the godfathers of fashion journalism, returned to his old stomping ground to present to our fashion students in the latest Fashion Forum series.
Having worked for Drapers three times, (twice as the boss) his talk focused on the history of the magazine and his time there. Whilst trying to sum up the purpose of a trade publication like Drapers, Eric took us through the topics which every journalist at the publication needed to keep in mind when a story hit their desk.
It’s a vast, vast industry but it’s also a very close and closed industry, so people are really important.
If somebody moves jobs, that is always a story. Say if ‘Fred’ goes from Selfridges to Debenhams, then there is a job going in Selfridges. Well unless they restructured, in which case you have a story there. Or if there is a vacancy left behind, who is going to take it?
There’s a story immediately if anybody moves. Why have they gone? Who is replacing them? Who have they replaced?
Product, fashion, merchandise whatever you want to call it, it’s really important.
The readers of Drapers are directly involved in selling the stuff. Either selling it to retailers, or retailers then selling it on to the consumer. Then all retailers are totally fascinated about shops. People are just fascinated with how shops look.
Sportwear International Magazine set it up in Germany and then did an international edition. They put very few words in the magazine and just had very big pictures. It was a very large format mag. Their idea was that people across the fashion industry just loved looking at shops and how the products are presented. You don’t need to have loads of words describing the height of the rails and how long they are, just have good photos showing it. It was a very successful magazine.
Sometimes words aren’t as important as the images.
It’s the thing that is really hard to get out as a journalist. How much does anyone pay for anything and how much are they selling it for?
Essentially on a basic level, anybody in a retail shop will be selling to you as the consumer, will be selling something at about two and a half times what they paid for it.
Because 20% of the price you pay in the UK is VAT, they basically double whatever they paid. If they paid £10 for a blouse they will be selling it to you for £25. That’s called the margin. When you get into people like Next, they will be selling a suit something like seven times what they paid for it out of China. That’s how they can then afford to discount it at the end of a sale.
When you read the reports about people’s finances they are always talking about margin, so it’s basically profit that they are talking about.
The bullseye for any retailer is to sell the stuff at full price. As soon as they start discounting, as they all do now. They are just eating into their profit. Too often buyers are obsessed with how cheap they can buy it and they don’t obsess with what price I can sell it at.
Everybody wants to know this. If you get any retailer, any supplier, or any buyer together, after they ask how the wife is and how the kids are, they say ‘how is business?’
Now this year it’s been pretty rubbish for them. Weather has been a problem, not having the right stuff at the right time because they have long unwieldy supply chains is a big problem.
This is the thing we used to write a lot about in Drapers. What is the concept?
If you go look at the new John Lewis opening in Leeds, that’s what you should be asking yourself. What is John Lewis’s proposition? What is it bringing to Leeds that isn’t already here?
So John Lewis does still occupy a slightly special place as the department store. It’s a bit more upmarket than House of Fraser or Debenhams, not quite as upmarket as Harvey Nichols. As analysts of the industry you should be looking and thinking, well what are these guys trying to do and are they achieving it?