Damian Clarke managing director of indie department store Stringers in Lytham, Lancashire.
Brands include Alex & Co, Esprit, French Connection, Great Plains, Hobbs, Mexx, Viyella
How do you set yourself apart as a fashion indie?
Having been in the same location for 150 years we are a well-established part of the local high street. This, however, is not a position we take for granted.
Everything from the shopfit to the staff and customer service is kept at the highest possible level in order to maintain as well as attract customers. Credibility is an area in which we pride ourselves along with our long-established personal relationships with local and regional customers.
How does your product range differ from your rivals?
Our stock is innovative, trend driven and good value. In addition to this, our customer service is of a consistently superior standard to even regional competition. Sometimes the fundamental elements are forgotten during the development of a new idea. For us, stock, value and service will always remain our highest priorities.
How confident do you feel about business this year?
Relatively confident, as long as we continue to put the work in. The business is there, people just need to be inspired before they spend. Providing the cash flow is managed effectively, I see no reason why this year need be a blot on our charts.
Are you changing your product mix to achieve that?
Although sales of our classic brands are down, the increase in trend-driven pieces means we are still in a comfortable position. We have become more focused on innovative and trend-driven pieces that give our customers the ‘wow’ factor.
What changes are you making in the coming year?
Advertising has become a key priority; we are introducing a more active approach to store promotion. We feel that unlike before when it was easy to throw borrowed money at the situation, marketing now involves a lot more cost management in order to be effective in the long term.
Are you putting up prices for spring 10?
As shoppers’ awareness of the financial climate increases they are insisting on more for their money. By working together with our suppliers we will be able to keep margins up while giving customers the promotions they have come to expect and demand. Everyone is keen to keep the money flowing and so communication between all parties is key for this coming year.