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Elspeth Mills

Drapers probe leading Independents to get their View From The Shop floor.

How is trade at the moment?
Business is ok, not absolutely fantastic; sales are about flat with last year. Profit-wise, it’s better though because we have one less store. We closed our fourth store last year because a bypass built in Keeble, Stockport 15 years ago has slowly been affecting trade in the area. There weren’t enough shops to fight it, so many have closed already.

The trading environment is tough, has this affected the way you buy?
I’ve been more cautious with my buying. Customers are a lot more discerning, and really looking at price points. Now the product has got to be right and the price exactly right, otherwise you end up being stuck with a load of stock. My buying budgets are also down because I’m not buying for the fourth shop, and I’m buying more in season. I’m also not buying for the stock room, which I did in the past, I’m just buying straight for the shop floor. This is so stock can move in and out of the shop more quickly, and customers can continually see newness.

Which brands are selling well?
Sandwich, Tutta Natura, Aboca, Mais il est, Oui le Soleil and Lauren Bidal are all selling well. It’s also our third season with Adini, which has been selling really well. It’s our first season with Bande Original.

How are you feeling towards Christmas?
I’m feeling good about Christmas. I do lots of gifts for Christmas as well, such as novelties and decorations, which help with the cash flow through December, and help draw customers in. Clothing is around 80% of the mix, and gifts 20%.

What are the biggest trends in womenswear at the moment?
Knitwear and jackets are doing well. We’re also doing well on coats, which we haven’t done for the last few years.

How is the independent womeswear market overall?
The womenswear market, the same as most retail markets, is worried about what will happen tomorrow. People aren’t too bad at the moment, but a lot depends on the summer we have. You have to remain confident though. Keeping footfall is key, I’ve been calling my customers now more than ever to tell them about new stock and deliveries. It’s also good to have other strong independents around you, which is healthy competition and boosts consumer confidence.

Do you have transactional website?
We don’t at the moment. We’ve got the structure, but we need to get it up and running. We’ve got web designers looking at it, it’s definitely something we’ll have soon.

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