Increased discounting activity will be the number one business concern for fashion independents over the coming year, figures from Drapers’ first Independents Market Report has revealed.
Drapers anonymously surveyed 56 fashion independents across the UK and Ireland. When asked what their biggest business concern was, nearly one-third (31%) cited discounting, followed by high rents and overheads such as business rates (22%) and the “threat of online” (15%).
Responding to the findings, Lauren Ferguson, owner of womenswear store Sisters in Falkirk, said: “I am positive sales for 2015 will be slightly up, but we have had to work so much harder to make that happen.
“Traditionally Christmas is where independents make their money. Now, the peak selling season ends when all the discounting starts around Black Friday. Most independents are then left standing around in their stores because footfall dies down.”
She added: “I don’t participate. Why would I take 20% off of product that people want anyway? I am now looking at every brand I stock and at what their behaviour was around Black Friday. I think brands have had it good for a long time and as a result of all this the wholesalers are benefiting.”
Paul Monks, founder and director of premium independent Purple Menswear, which has two stores in Hertfordshire in Harpenden and Berkhamsted, agreed that discounting is a challenge.
However, he added: “We don’t participate in Black Friday. We do a mid-season sale for our best customers and then two promotions a year. Customers do expect discounts these days, but it is how you manage it. We have a loyalty programme and that works well.”
Despite the concerns, however, the mood among fashion independents remains resilient. Three-quarters (74%) said 2014 sales had increased on the year before, and 81% expected their 2015 figures to be “slightly” or “a lot better”.
When asked how they felt about the next 12 months, 44% said, “I am confident my business will grow”, while a further 27% responded, “Very [confident] – things are going really well”. Just 9% said they expect things to be tough, and none said they were worried about their business failing.
Janine O’Keefe, owner of Okeefe Fashion in East Molesey, said: “We doubled sales for the autumn 15 season versus last year, so I am feeling positive. I just looked very carefully at all of the issues that could impact on my business, such as discounting online and on the high street, and I am just careful to buy harder to find brands where that isn’t an issue. Of course that means customers also have more of a reason to come to you.”
To download the free report, produced in association with POS software provider Vend, register here.