Richard Pepper is owner of menswear and womenswear independent Peppers in Church Stretton, Shropshire, and a member of the IMC (Independent Menswear Company) Buying Group.
As an independent, it’s increasingly the margins that we can secure with a brand that determines our decision-making. There are fewer shoppers on the high street today, so the margin we receive on what we sell is increasingly important.
Fortunately, we can cherry-pick brands with relative freedom as we are located in a small town with little competition or risk of crossover. Of course, this is a double-edged sword in that we run the risk of accumulating too many brands. Practically speaking, the more suppliers you have the more shows you need to attend, and you can be tempted to buy more brands than you actually need.
The discounts and incentives we obtain at the IMC show are crucial and this doesn’t just apply to forward orders. The in-season stock-service we receive from brands such as HJ Hall Socks and Ibex belts - they offer discounts and incentives to place orders at the show rather than later - is equally important. Another brand we will order in-season for immediate delivery is Jockey, which offers a 10% show discount and from whom it is worth ordering enough stock to last until the following IMC show.
For the classic items, which we sell constantly throughout the year, I will order in advance, benefit from this discount, ensure that I have sufficient stock in-season and secure a better margin at the point of sale.
I am currently trying to edit our ranges to focus more on those brands that perform really well. In theory, I could manage with carrying a single shirt brand, but realistically I will find another brand offers a unique detail that cannot be found elsewhere. Equally with the trousers. Meyer performs fantastically well overall, but the older customer will often prefer the Gurteen fit.
There is a balance to seek between trying to please everyone and developing a story that has consistency and relevance. We are still very much pitched at the classic market, although we now lean towards a younger customer in the 35-plus age group. Our customers, up to a point, are more concerned with the fit and make of garments than price. Despite this, they are often neglected by the high street, which tends to favour 18- to 30-year-olds.