A Drapers survey – to be published in this week’s magazine – suggests indies are sticking to existing brands for future seasons rather than sourcing from new names. Should they always embrace new brands?
YES - Ruth Faulkner, news reporter
The central ethos of an independent retailer is to set itself apart from its rivals on the high street and so by their very nature, indies should be championing new brands.
When times are tough, it is understandable that buyers are more reluctant to commit their precious budget on an unknown brand, but to maintain indies’ role as the nose of the fashion industry, seeking out new talent and breaking new brands, it is crucial they don’t lose their nerve.
Admittedly not everyone is likely to find the next Alexander McQueen but if new brands can’t break through in independent retailers then where can they do it?
Flipping the issue on its head, when times are tough consumers are also cautious with their cash. What better way to persuade them to part with their pennies than to introduce a new, directional brand on the cusp of making it big - surely everyone wants to wear the next big thing before anyone else?
The high street is drab enough as it is sometimes. Indies shouldn’t fall into this trap of playing it safe, and should be working season-on-season to ensure their stores are as fresh and exciting for their customers as possible.
NO - Victoria Gallagher, news reporter
It’s all very well to advocate experimentation, but in a climate where businesses are dropping like flies it makes sense to stick with what works.
Indies need brands they can rely on and labels they know will keep customers coming back for more – they should not be gambling the house on what may or may not be the next big thing. Now is not the time to go experimenting.
Consumers’ purse-strings are tight, and until we see a change, buyers must be ruthless. Better established brands carry a name that shoppers know and trust – and will come back to time and again.
There is also more reliability with brands indies have worked with for a long time – you know when and how they will pay you, meaning there is less uncertainty when stocking the brand.
That’s not to say the shops need to be filled with boring product –after all, doesn’t history tell us that heels get higher and hem lines get shorter during a downturn? And 2012 is no different. Instead of looking for something totally untried, indies should be offering customers exciting options from well-loved names, supplying freshness with the comfort of brand security.