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Indies cash in as shoppers opt for quality

Independent womenswear retailers saw their market share by value rocket last year after shoppers opted to trade up to buying fewer better-quality items in highly serviced environments.

Womenswear indies recorded a significant sales gain of 7% by value for the 52 weeks ended March 1, against a 3% contraction across the women’s fashion retail sector as a whole, according to data from research firm TNS FashionTrak. The womenswear market as a whole was worth £17.2 billion over the year, meaning the indies in this sector are now collectively worth £1.16bn to the economy - equivalent to the entire annual sales at fashion multiple New Look and a market share of about 6.7%.

“Throughout 2008 we did see a swing away from the supermarkets and value players, with shoppers buying fewer items of better quality - we saw more sales of things like silk and cashmere, for instance. “

Ian Mitchell, insight director at TNS FashionTrak

The only other sub-sectors to show value gains in the womenswear sector were the internet, where sales increased by 28%, and the supermarkets, which grew their sales by 3%. Department stores, one of the key rivals to womenswear indies, saw their collective sales
by value fall by 2% to £1.56bn, while the high street experienced a 1% decline.

However, womenswear indies did record a 9% fall in volume, against a 5% fall in volume across the womenswear market as a whole, but the measure by value, which reflects total spend, is far more useful to indicate the overall health of the sector.

A volume fall would also support anecdotal evidence from indepenents that some customer groups are opting for quality, buying fewer but more expensive items in the recession.

However, Ian Mitchell, insight director at TNS FashionTrak, said 2009 was likely to be a tougher year than last for independents as disposable income shrinks even further.

He said: “Throughout 2008 we did see a swing away from the supermarkets and value players, with shoppers buying fewer items of better quality - we saw more sales of things like silk and cashmere, for instance. The average spend didn’t change though.”

Mitchell added: “However, as the economy has started to pinch even further there is a swing back towards the value sector.

“Fashion spend is intrinsically linked to disposable income and this year shoppers will have less money which will force them to shop differently. That means indies might struggle more.”

Within the gains, womenswear indies showed the biggest value uplifts among the over-45s market, where share by value was up 9% to £640.1 million. However, under-45s also opted to spend more with women’s indies last year, helping them to gain 4% by value, taking those stores to a collective worth of £523.3m.

Meanwhile, menswear indies fared less well over the same period, although the picture was not disastrous. Menswear indies’ share by value dipped by 3%, in line with the total market, which contracted at the same rate to value it at £9.46bn. However, department stores showed a 10% sales gain across menswear to £946.5m. Sales of menswear at the supermarkets rose 5% to £522.2m, but sales on the high street fell back by 5% to £2.04m.

 52 w/e 02 Mar 200852 w/e 01 Mar 2009% change
TOTAL MARKET  17,673.217,209.8-3
  Clothing Multiples  5,288.55,220.1-1
  Clothing Independents  1,088.41,163.37
  General Stores  2,747.62,501.9-9
  Department Stores  1,601.01,565.8-2
  Footwear Multiples  729.6686.2-6
  Footwear Independents  224.2210.2-6
 Mail Order  1,439.41,385.0-4
 Internet  315.4402.228
  Discounters/Cash & Carry  1,913.81,834.2-4
  Supermarkets  1,107.81,146.23
 Sports  698.1605.3-13
 Other  519.5489.4-6

Source: TNS FashionTrak

Readers' comments (3)

  • My store has done very well in the last year. I expected to be hit by the recession much more than I actually have been. My loyal customers have been even more so and they have been buying more special pieces from me. I am glad the independent sector is holding up. We are an important part of the fashion market.

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  • I've found trade more difficult in the last six months but I am pleased to hear others are having a more positive experience. Does anyone have any advice or tips on how they are pulling in customers during the recession? I want to do some more marketing but I want to try to do something quite out there so it really grabs people's attention. I have been trading in the town for 17 years.

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  • I supply more than a 100 independents and most of those arent having as bad a time as the newspapers suggest. I wouldnt say trade is easy for them but this idea that shops are closing everywhere just isnt right. The best independents are thriving and this is because they know their customers so well and so can react and adapt very quickly during tougher times. I am working with my stockists on stock and extra marketing to try to give them a little extra help this season. I do believe things will pick up further for autumn.

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