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Independents can still have their day

Everyone is always telling fashion retailers, especially independents, that they need to differentiate themselves in order to thrive. But given that those who spoke this week at the Drapers Fashion Summit have actually done it themselves, it would seem like good advice to take on board.

Queen of Shops Mary Portas kicked off proceedings at the Cumberland Hotel in London by saying that there was definitely a place for independents in the UK, but they needed to position themselves carefully.

She said independents could compete with the high street on trend, and at a reasonable price, but must offer consumers something they can’t get on the high street – and that something could come in the form of product, service or general shopping experience. Basically, you need to stand for something, have a strong point of view that typifies you, and sell on that.

Reiss founder David Reiss backed this view; his success, he claimed, came from never wavering from the Reiss philosophy of producing simple, clean, well-cut clothes. He said the one time he allowed the company to stray from the path – when it first launched into womenswear – was a “disaster”. He quickly set the company back on track and now it is taking the UK, the US and other international markets by storm.

For those smaller businesses that think this story bears no relevance to them, Reiss pointed out: “We all start out small.”

For further advice on what makes a successful fashion retailer, see our Drapers Awards Winners Brochure in this issue. It makes for inspirational reading and congratulations to all of those who feature in it

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