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Charles Simons

Charles Simons owner of women’s occasionwear indie Donna in Cockfosters, north London. Brands include Amanda Wakeley, Frank Usher and own-brand Donna

How’s trade at the moment?

We’re holding our own. This year has been tougher than last year, but I’ve changed the business so dramatically since then that it’s hard to compare. I used to do 50% daywear but now I’ve cut it back further to about 10% – I really only keep it for my regulars.

Is the occasionwear market performing well in the recession?

It is definitely faring better than daywear. People may now spend £500 rather than £1,000 but they have not stopped going to events and will still buy something new for a wedding or function.

Are you adjusting your offer at all?

We’re trying to find some younger eveningwear brands to meet the demand for prom dresses. We’re also looking for some mother-of-the-bride ranges.

How do you differentiate yourself from your rivals?

There are very few shops that only do occasionwear so we have a niche. We also offer a tremendous service, making any alterations that customers want.

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