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Fiona Sanderson

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

How is trade at the moment?

I think trading is difficult at the moment, but I think that the sunshine is helping and that everybody is beginning to feel a lot more positive. Customers are cautious about unemployment, but having said that interest rates are incredibly low. I think everybody is beginning to feel a lot more confident and positive about the outlook.

How is the recession affecting sales at your store?

This is not affecting us in a negative way. We’re only a year old since March so, really, it’s just every day stuff.

What can independents do to set themselves apart and what is your store doing at the moment?

To be honest, I think it’s about building a customer relationship. We’re targeting customers in the local area. We’re doing champagne, new brand launch evenings, trying to do as much to get people to come in. This evening I have a promotional event where we’re taking a selection of our stock to a customer’s house and we’re giving a percentage to a local school charity. We try to keep our service very personalized.

We also launched a maternity boutique in January. We have a three-story store and converted the downstairs to a maternity boutique. We have Citizen of Humanity maternity jeans and a selection of clothes that compliment pregnant figures. It’s doing pretty well and we’re very pleased with it. It’s definitely been a good edition.

How many stores do you have?

One.

Are you expanding at all?

Not at the moment. We hope to in the future if we can find the right site.

How is the independent womenswear market faring in the recession?

They are looking for individual brands, interesting stock, and I think there is a feeling of loyalty. I think that people are being more careful with their spending and therefore they are going to be more loyal to the brands that they particularly like.

What are the biggest challenges facing you?

Obviously, the current environment is really scary for independents. So it’s making sure that we maintain customer relationships and ensuring that our stock is well priced and interesting.

How would you describe your relationship with your customers?

Very personal. Both of the owners are always in the shop and we always encourage all the staff that we have here to invest in the customers.

When do you think the economic climate will pick up?

I think it’ll probably go on another twelve months.

Which brands are selling well? Why?

Birger and Theory. They’re just great brands that help the wardrobe and that look nice without having to spend a huge amount. They’re very stylish brands at good price points.

Which trends are driving sales in womenswear at the moment?

Colour and print. People want to buy into “feel good” looks really. We have a great deal of colours and prints in our store. Everybody is buying into the legging look as well, so everyone is into layering. I think in the UK, spring is all about layering.

Do you have transactional website?

No.

Will you be getting one?

We’ve looked at getting a transactional website in the future. But I think online is definitely something you have to get 100% right, and it’s something that we are not particularly familiar with so we are cautious. We are investigating it, but we’re staying cautious.

What can we expect from you this year?

To continue finding interesting brands. For autumn 09  we will have Odd Molly, Autumn Cashmere, Pucker – a New York silk and shirt dress brand, and Laark.

Dresses are always a really important part of our product mix. And we have lots of layering pieces, so lightwear knits. And bright gem colours. We have handbags by Angel Jackson and we have jewellery brand Monica Vinader.

  • Fiona Sanderson, co-owner of Feather & Stitch in Richmond upon Thames, London
  • Brands include American Vintage, By Malene Birger, Earnest Sewn

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