Drapers probes leading independents to get their View From the Shop Floor.
How is trade at the moment?
It’s been very erratic. We always go into Sale at the beginning of June and this year the first day of our Sale was our best trading day ever. Interestingly, our sales figures are very similar to during the last recession, so people’s buying habits clearly follow a pattern. A Sale is always going to be a bigger draw during tough times. Our regular, core customers have been coming in and spending, but people have definitely made sure they find out when our Sale is and put off buying until then. However, at the start of the Sale prices don’t drop by that much but people are not waiting until later in the Sale when stock might be half price.
How will that affect your buying for next season?
This season was quite unpredictable, but I now have a better idea of my customers spending habit so I have more confidence going into next season’s buying. I will be looking at widening our offer at the more affordable end of the range and probably adding a couple of new brands.
Which brands are selling well at the moment?
We’re selling a lot of Marcona and also Michèle trousers, but they are the core brands that always do well for us.
What are the biggest challenges facing womenswear independents?
It’s very tough at the moment. People are definitely more price conscious, even the wealthier customers who might not have thought about cost before the recession hit. The challenge is to strike the right balance in our price range.
So, are you adjusting your prices or the items you stock?
We still need to stock expensive items because certain people will always look for them, but we need to increase out value ranges as well to make sure we are still accessible to a broad range of customers. You sometimes get a better mark up on the value items anyway.
How do you compete with the high street?
We’re a local, suburban shop so we don’t directly compete with the high street. Also, our core clientele is 40 plus and they often tell us there is just not much available on the high street for them.
How do you market yourself to existing and new customers?
I’ve been in business 25 years so I’ve built up a very strong customer database in that time. The mailing list is undoubtedly my most effective way to stimulate business. I send out a professional looking card about four times a year, telling customers when we get new stock in or are going on Sale. It always brings them in.
New customers often come via word of mouth but we do advertise in the local paper and also in the Glasgow Herald.
- Margarate Sands owner of classic womenswear indie The Wardrobe in Glasgow
- Brands include Aria, Eugene Klein, Marcona, Marie Méro