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Drapers Debate: Is launching an own brand the right move for indies?

Two high profile indies are preparing to launch their own label, claiming it is a great way to keep customers coming back. But does it compromise their independence? Drapers Debates…

Yes - Victoria Gallagher

Victoria Gallagher

Once upon a time it was enough to be the only shop in a 15-mile radius selling brand X to claim exclusivity. But with the rise of ecommerce, that is no longer the case.

Shoppers can find the cheapest product from the comfort of their home (or office) without tracking down the one shop they would previously have relied on. They could probably even find one cheaper from further afield - but distance is no issue when you’re buying online.

This means indie retailers need to offer customers something that they can’t find anywhere else, and developing an own label is definitely the way to go.

Indies with the right product can call the shots, setting the price that means they don’t lose out in the knowledge no one can undercut them.

It also helps reaffirm the store’s image as a trend setter - creating the look, not just buying it in.

OKeefe and Black White Denim have revealed their plans to launch an own-brand for autumn 13, both creating what sound to be small, manageable collections that will not carry undue risk, but could further cement their brand name as a go-to place for exclusive fashion.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more indies launching their own brands as they try to coax shoppers back through their doors time and time again.

No – Ruth Faulkner



The premise of an independent retailer is to offer customers a carefully curated selection of brands that sit well together and provide a viable alternative to what is an already saturated high street.

The key is in the name: independents should offer an unbiased view of every brand in their portfolio. Start selling your own product and your motivation to hand-sell items for which you only take a cut will be compromised.

What will this do to the confidence of the brand, or their willingness to work so closely in organising in-store events or promotions?

And of course, entering the new world of design at a time when mistakes can cost livelihoods would be foolhardy for all but the best. Even a small collection will be costly and if the reserves are running short, it might not be the best bet.

Additionally, it is often difficult to encourage cash-poor consumers to buy into a brand they don’t know and trust.

I am all for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit but buying better and providing the optimum brand mix in stores remains by far the best solution.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Having read the article I think Black White Denim have approached this in the right way by chosing to produce low cost, basic garments that are sold conviniently alongside the customers favourite brands. The vests, t-shirts, leggings etc. are the perfect add on sale and the stores name on the label will hopefully elevate it above other basics brands. If i recall correctly I think this was how the Bailey tshirt brand started up!

    Okeefe on the other hand have basically stuck two fingers up to brands that will sit alongside its new range and said "We don't think you're doing a good enough job with your product, so we're going to make our own", an approach that is going to be, at best, detrimental to relationships with suppliers. The collection sounds eclectic and will either work for the store or completely tank and incur significant losses. Let's hope it's the former.

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