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Common sense should set minimum order levels

Yvette Davies is the owner of womenswear independent Thirty Three Boutique in Lymington, Hampshire.

Yvette Davies

Yvette Davies

As the spring 15 buying season approaches, I’m reviewing my brand mix and what is profitable for my boutique. This inevitably leads me to consider the minimum order levels stipulated by some suppliers, and a recent event has made me reflect further on this.

A few weeks ago I was informed by the apologetic and embarrassed agent for a European knitwear brand that the autumn 14 order I had placed some months previously was not going to be fulfilled.

My order fell short of their new minimum order level of €3,000 (£2,430) per season. I’d been dumped from a brand that I had supported in store and online since their introduction to the UK in 2011. Clearly, this brand feels it can now live without serving those small independents who helped them break into the UK market in the first place. Shame on them.

Some common sense has to prevail in setting minimum order levels. Thirty Three Boutique is in Lymington, a small, seasonal market town on the south coast, and I plan my spending and stock levels accordingly.

It’s not rocket science, so why do I continually struggle to get suppliers to understand that my boutique does not require the same level of stock as one in Notting Hill? In a seasonal location, my autumn budget will never match my spring expenditure.

For the past three years, I have been regularly contacted by a major UK fashion house inviting me to view its collections. I think a capsule collection of the brand could do well in my store, but the stumbling block is its punitive minimum order levels - £6,000 per season, plus another £6,000 if I sell the brand on my website.

I’ve also been in touch with another major brand supplier where I am constantly being pushed to spend its £10,000 minimum order level. I have a customer following for the core collection, but for too many seasons the rest of the collection ends up in the Sale.

I’ve now stipulated my budget and am waiting to hear if it takes the time to understand my market and support my seven years of loyalty.

I do hope so - but if not, I am now brave enough to walk away.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Good on you girl! Our business sells men's and women's clothing and accessories at the 'better' end and I can never understand why the womenswear fashion industry seems to think it can stipulate seasonal minimum order values with no regard to the size, potential, location or the many other denominators that define a successful business. Virtually none of our other product suppliers do this. Stick to your guns Yvette, I'm with you on this one, maybe if more of us take a stand they'll wise up.

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  • I admire any Indie who will say no to a brand's minimum order requirements. No shop should to be forced to spend more than they need and lines they cannot sell.

    This is an area where Drapers should really be doing some digging, and when you dig, you have to expect to get your hands dirty - Every legal expert I have spoke to about this have said that it is almost certainly illegal with existing accounts. If you are paying you bills and doing everything a brand requirers, if they suddenly change the goalposts it is illegal for them to drop you.

    Too many retailers are frightened and are afraid to challenge, which is perfectly understandable, but if they did, they would win. Brands throw their weight around with this illegal concept which ends up being counter productive as many shops will then spend more than they need and the excess product ends up in third party retailers, wholesalers and ebay.

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