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Retailer Insight: Indies' online battle for brand loyalty

Deryane tadd (2)

Must-have brands are vital for independent retailers. But what happens when the competition hots up and bigger retailers want a piece of the pie? Deryane Tadd, owner of Drapers Award-winning premium womenswear store The Dressing Room in St Albans, examines the challenges facing independents when selling brands in the cut-throat world of online retail.

Deryane tadd (2)

The lifeblood of any independent retailer is our passion for scouting out and championing new brands that we know our customers will love. We spend an extraordinary amount of time and legwork visiting showrooms, going to trade shows, and people watching to curate our collections and build an individual edit that will always keep our shoppers coming back for more.

Once we have discovered these brands, more time and energy goes into promoting their upcoming collections and championing their creative talent. Often, a new brand or start-up will need a little help along the way, and we can advise them on how to nurture and grow their business.

I can think of numerous occasions where we have advised brands on how to deal with a difficult situation or build a presence, or the best route to take for in-store display and on packaging – all to create solutions that will benefit both brand and retailer. We also work closely with new brands to build a strong profile with influencers and through social media. After all, surely the more successful they become, the better it is for us both?

Unfortunately, it seems this isn’t always the case. Increasingly, we’re finding that once a brand has established itself, helped by the loyalty of independent retailers, the bigger players start to take notice. It is at this point that brands can have their heads turned and things begin to get difficult.

As independents, our distribution is limited and our online presence is restricted, and the cost of online advertising goes through the roof. Often, we can no longer afford to compete with these corporations and their huge budgets. In some cases, a brand will go as far as to tell indies that they can no longer sell their product online, because of exclusivity clauses put in place by their new stockists.

The Drapers Independents Awards 2018 are open for entry! The awards celebrate the best-performing and most innovative fashion businesses in the independent sector 

Entries are completely free, so start yours today to showcase your achievements and get the recognition you deserve.

The 2018 winners will be revealed at a lunchtime awards ceremony at The Brewery, London, on 12 September 2018.


The overriding frustration with these exclusivity clauses is that an indie selling a brand through its website would have very little or no bearing on the sales that a big online retailer would achieve with the collection. However, excluding an indie from the selling the brand to an already hungry customer can be hugely detrimental. Having spent time, energy and money educating the customer to wait for that next collection, their source is cut off. Unless they are local to the bricks-and-mortar store, customers must go elsewhere for their fix.

Removing a brand from online and selling it only in store will make sell-through plummet. The very nature of independent multichannel retailing is that local customers will use the online platform as a magazine to see what is in store. It drives them through the door. There then becomes little point promoting an in-store-only brand through social media, as it just frustrates existing online customers as they cannot view or buy the collection.

Building a strong multichannel business is hard enough for independents as it is, without brand partners making it more difficult by being short sighted.

We independent retailers can adapt quickly by changing our brand mix and hunting down new talent when things don’t go our way. As the drivers of our own businesses, we are by our very natures loyal. We are in the business of building longstanding relationships with our suppliers. Thankfully, this is something most brands appreciate and they will work incredibly hard to ensure longevity for all.

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