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Letters to May 2, 2009

The latest letters from Drapers’ readers

McArthurGlen is a top trainer

McArthurGlen UK is very proud to be acknowledged for five years of hard work with our Retail Academy in Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, Chester.

Last week, it was named one of the National Skills Academy for Retail’s 18 official training centre Skill Shops in the UK by Skillsmart. This reaffirms the company’s position not only as the leading developer, owner and manager of designer outlets in Europe, but
also as an important resource for retailers in developing and training their staff.

The outlet sector has come a long way since Cheshire Oaks opened in 1995, when the general view of outlets in the UK was one of ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’.

Central to the academy’s business model is the success of its brand partners, together with a focus on offering customers great brands at great prices - this was why we launched the Academy.

It was set up to guide brands on how to achieve better sales performances and help their inventory positions and cash flows.
Given that the retail sector relies on its people, the National Skills Academy for Retail will prove essential in developing the skills we need to ride through the recession.

Julia Calabrese, chief executive, McArthurGlen UK, London

EFG helped give us some welly

After reading your 60-second Debate article on the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme (Drapers, April 25), I just wanted to write and say that in our opinion the EFG is working.

A capital injection was required into our business [online Wellington boots boutique] due to the high levels of growth we are currently experiencing, and we have been successful in raising the necessary funds thanks to the EFG scheme.
So, 2009 is looking like a good years for us.

Sarah Longthorn, director, WedgeWelly, Hull

The 60-second debate

Are brands doing enough to help retailers shift stock?

YES I’ve never had so much support from brands and wholesalers. There was one case where we told a supplier that we still had stock and didn’t want to mark it down, and the supplier told us to send it back and then sent us something else.

I also asked another footwear brand, which we didn’t have a good sell-through with, whether there was any chance we could cut the next season’s order. I expected it to say no, but it swapped it for other styles that were selling better and we then had 100% sell-through.
It’s great if brands can offer that type of service, because you don’t forget it and you’ll go back. But it’s a minority of brands that will do that.
Jan Shutt, owner of womenswear indie Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire

NO It would be easy to jump on a bandwagon and blame suppliers when there’s a downturn. But we are the retailers and it’s our job to
sell the stock. At the moment there aren’t really any brands that are doing anything special to help us push product. However, a couple of seasons ago, Ralph Lauren came and did two windows in the store, which was a fantastic success.

In Aberdeen, the market is still strong. We’re in our own little bubble and trade is good, although we’re not being complacent. If brands want to help retailers in the downturn, then probably the best thing they could do is to be more flexible with payment terms.
Patrick Ritchie, owner of designer indie Signature in Aberdeen

NO There are brands that do a lot more than others and some you’d like to help but don’t. There is an arrogance with some major players, who don’t feel they have to help in hard times.

Some brands are great and do things like markdown contributions for over-stocks, swapping stock, contributing to advertising, staff incentives and promotions. Brands like Bruno Saint Hilaire and Without Prejudice are very good.

However, it’s often the larger brands thinking on a global scale that don’t do anything at a local level, and they can be brands we’ve spent a lot with. There is almost a feeling of “if you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be selling it” from some.

Charlie Peel, buyer at department store Williams & Griffin in Colchester, Essex

MAYBE A number of suppliers are enormously helpful, whether through training or supporting promotional events we do in store, or offering prizes for promotions.

The amount of support has been growing gradually, but brands were already doing that before the slump as part of “after care” support.
Very few suppliers offer the option to swap stock, and there are some brands that just feel once they’ve sold it, they’ve sold it. It also depends on the agent - how active they are and how closely they work with the brand.

More support is always welcome, but different retailers want different things.
Rebecca Oakley, partner at womenswear indie Anne Furbank in Buckden, Cambridgeshire

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