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Alvin Holgate

Drapers probe leading Independents to get their View From The Shop floor.

How is trade at the moment?
We’re not doing too badly. It’s our one year anniversary this week and we’re doing particularly well with Diesel, Ted Baker and Luke.

What are the biggest challenges facing you?
I think the biggest challenge will be the credit crunch and whether it’s going to affect my business going forward. At the moment, business is doing well, with the last few weeks proving the best so far this year. I think sales have been boosted by the new brands we now stock, such as Fred Perry, Penguin, Ted Baker and Pink Soda for autumn 08.

Which categories are selling well?
Men’s polo tops and heavy chunky knitwear are selling well. Womenswear is starting to do well in party dresses and evening wear, with casual women’s tights and leopard print tights also doing well. We sell jewellery and handbags, so we offer a one stop shop.

What are the biggest trends in young fashion at the moment?
I think the biggest trend is polo shirts for men, along with the boy band look including slim ties, skinny jeans and waist coats. Cardigans are also doing well.

Will this continue into next year?
I think it will, as we’ve done our forward buying and we’re seeing the same thing as this year, but with a twist. Buying a range in depth, rather than just a few pieces, is the way forward.

How confident do you feel about business next year?
Times are uncertain, but overall I’m very pleased and looking forward to business next year. I’m stocking new brands, changing the mix and getting new ideas all the time.

How is the independent young fashion market overall?
It’s a mixed bag. Certain stores are not doing so well, but they need to try stocking new brands and look at reinventing the business if sales are down.

Are your budgets up or down for next year?
They’re up by about 27 %. We’ve had a really good year, but we’re not going to take our eye off the ball.

What brands do you stock?
Diesel is a strong denim brand and does well for us. Lipsy is selling well, along with French Connection and Fever. We’ve just rebranded the store and introduced new brands such as Fred Perry, Penguin, Ted Baker and Pink Soda. We’ve redecorated the shop with chandeliers, new wallpaper and magazines displayed around the shop, such as Vogue, Grazia and Drapers.

How do you compete with the high street?
Our customers like the fact we’re an independent shop, but we have some competition from the Bullring shopping centre. However, I have a database of our customers and we email and text them personally when we have new stock in and update them straight away. I think good, old-fashioned polite service is the key. We also do fashion shows and charity events to keep the shop name in the public eye.

Which brands are selling well at the moment?
Men’s Diesel is selling very well at the moment, denim as a product is very strong, and Ted Baker is doing well. Luke does very well, it has fantastic design.

Alvin Holgate is owner of young fashion independent Republic in Harborne, Birmingham.

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