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Charlotte Wilkie

Drapers probes leading independents to get their View From the Shop Floor.

  • Charlotte Wilkie is co-owner of kidswear indie Charlie Barley in Brighton
  • Brands include D&G Junior, No Added Sugar, Ted Baker

How is trade at the moment?

This week, trade has been bad, I personally think it is down to the weather. We recently had a great bank holiday. We’re based in Brighton so that always helps. January and February were extremely slow, it was down from last year. March to April was better than expected actually. May has not been good so far. Our stock is seasonal, and always sells better when the weather is good. We’re putting through a lot more transactions. A few years ago, customers would come in and spend between £500 to £800, now there’s much more of a necessity to drive sales.

Which brands are selling well?

Slogan stuff is still a big hit. It’s very gimmicky and a quick fix for consumers. I could sell 100 ‘lock up your daughters T-shirts’ in my sleep. Also, dresses are doing well. Boyswear has been slow generally though. We’ve sold a few tops and trousers, but no shorts. 

Will you be introducing any new brands?

We try to introduce a few new brands each season to keep it fresh and exciting. We’re favouring American brands at the moment as they’ve been coming up with some really good stuff. This season we introduced Kids Inc, and at the moment we’re the only UK stockists. Bobbley is still a good seller, we’re one of very few stockists left in the UK now as it’s so hard to get your hands in it. A new brand that I am particularly proud of is Gotta Smile which is these great summer hats, we have four different colours. They’re made in Zimbabwe. The children design the patterns on the hats and the mothers make them. The profits from the sale of these hats goes back into the community to help build housing, provide food, medical care and education.

How confident do you feel about the coming year?

Well, it’s terribly tough at the moment. I don’t know when, but it can only get better. We’re much more aware of the high street than we ever have been. Even suppliers have changed their positions. They are demanding money up front, whereas they weren’t before, and it’s proving to be much more difficult to juggle cash flow.

Who are your main competitors and what learning’s, if any do you take from them.

Naturally the high street. This is nothing new, however it’s obviously more intense now than it has ever been. The other huge influence on the scene at the moment is websites. They have no rent or rates to pay and so they’re able to be cheaper.

What promotional events have you done lately?

We recently redid our mailing list we trying to contact our customers fairly regularly to establish a more personal service. At the moment we are appealing to our international customers online, they can order from now and June and receive 10% off of the order. The same applies to pregnant mothers. They type in a code at the checkout and receive 10% off. We have a preview week coming up in July. We’ll contact all of our mailing list inviting them to preview all new stock at a discounted rate.


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