Judging for the Drapers Independents Awards is always a lively debate, and one that reassures me that it’s not all doom and gloom on the high street – there is so much innovation and success to celebrate.
At the awards ceremony in London this week, we heard the poignant story of how our lifetime achievement award winner Hilary Cookson was persuaded to join her mother in the family womenswear business, and never looked back. The picture she paints of the Maureen Cookson store at its height is quite staggering – it employed no less than 48 sales staff and six seamstresses.
Hilary’s influence extends beyond running a successful retailer for so many years. She has been a regular contributor to Drapers, sharing her strong views on the big issues affecting the independent sector.
In May 2015, she wrote a column for us in which she declared that, if she ruled the country, she would pass a law that everyone had to go to their local high street on a set day and spend a percentage of their disposable income in independent shops. She would also ban discounting outside of set periods, scrap Black Friday, and roll out free car parking sites in towns across the country. She’d certainly get my vote.
Hilary urged politicians to remember that, while high-level debates about policy rage on, shopkeepers are trying to ply their trade – and need some help. This rings all the more true today, as the Brexit negotiations reach a new crescendo.
This week, as well as toasting the success of the winners and finalists of the Drapers Independents Awards, we are launching a survey to find out more about the state of independent retailing. We want to bring attention to the realities of trading today, and highlight what more the government needs to do.
If you work for or own an independent fashion or footwear retailer, we would like to know how your business is performing, what barriers you face, and whether you feel adequately supported by the government. Take part in the anonymous survey now at bit.ly/DrapersIndieSurvey and we will publish the results in Drapers.
Congratulations to all of our award winners this week.