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Brands must take care over multiple choice 

Marie Davies

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,’ is how the saying goes.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,’ is how the saying goes, so as brands traditionally stocked by indies increasingly decide to hop on the multiple retailer bandwagon, it got us thinking: is this a natural progression for labels yet to reach their potential, or a slippery slope to devaluing the brand?

Third-party brands selling in high street stores is nothing new – Topshop, Next and New Look have been doing it for years. What’s different is that these brands are not only filling rails in flagship stores but are also being sold in volume online and across regional shops.

River Island is the latest to take the plunge, announcing the addition of Little Mistress and Forever Unique, both traditionally indie brands, into its Liverpool One store and online with a view to a national roll-out.

So what happens if, or more likely when, the brands are rolled out nationwide? What will it mean for the indies that frequent town centre positions? “We stock brands that are available in Topshop but that’s in London, so it doesn’t affect our region,” says Paul Turner-Mitchell, owner of Rochdale indie 25 Ten Boutique. “Little Mistress does well for us, but if it started selling in Rochdale River Island, I’d have to stop selling the brand.”

Indies retain their niche by having a point of difference, mostly through having the brands that customers can’t get in multiples. So perhaps brands should pick a side and stick to it. You could argue that raising a brand’s profile is never a bad thing, but where is the cut-off point when it starts growing beyond its indie roots?

“Trade shows will be more imperative for indies to find brands to bridge the gap,” says Turner-Mitchell. The need for indies to go further afield to source brands has never been greater. Let’s hope in the rush to appeal to a wider customer base, brands don’t forget who put them in the position to do so.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Most brands are just going for the numbers these days, but that short-term view has consequences for Indies. Remus are a great brand for an Indie - good quality clothing offering great margin. As a brand they're not looking to 'sell out' , have an intelligent sales force and having HOF 'online only' adds some kudos too.

    On the other hand... The desperate Peter Werth show how it shouldn't be done. Once the Indies friend, they have truly shafted the independent sector by allowing HOF to sell it instore, usually at hefty discounts, therefore killing the brand in the process so most independents will no longer touch it.

    Too many brands work on the 'cake and it eat' scenario, but the ones that are more savvy are the ones that do best in longer term. There's just not enough of them around right now.

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