Matt Horstead, Owner of menswear retailer Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex.
The dust is now settling after Christmas and we are trying to gauge stock levels and how the post-festive Sales have fared.
Immediately our thoughts jump to the weather and what it is going to do for spring. This time last year it was snowing and the cold snap lasted right through until buying season in May. That unseasonal weather is still fresh in my memory and has had a major impact on my outlook for spring 14.
Looking out at the damp streets of Chichester, I have to say that while it is off-putting to go shopping in the rain, it could be a lot worse. Luckily in this part of the country we have been fortunate enough to avoid flooding. In our business, the weather is always going to be the number one challenge - it envelops everything we do from buying to predicting sales.
Having said that, retailers have to remind themselves that we can’t do anything about the rain, sun, hail or snow. We need to focus on what we can influence. For example, I know a large proportion of my top customers have a healthy disposable income and will be heading to catch some winter sun or going skiing this spring, so it’s my responsibility to entice them into store with
Customer service and building relationships with our shoppers is essential. We can send pictures of new product to customers as soon as it’s delivered via messaging service WhatsApp. When our Belstaff leather jackets came in store last week, a £1,200 coat was sold within 20 minutes after I sent a picture over to a customer I thought might be interested. This type of communication is definitely an area we are focusing on and will be using more and more this season.
Due to the bad weather, spring last year was our worst quarter of trading in more than 17 years of business, but it gave us the opportunity to start with a clean slate. We’ve freshened up the store, brought in new and interesting brands and dropped some we felt were over-exposed. Although I’m expecting this year to be tough, we can react and adjust to whatever Mother Nature throws at us.