Independent retailers have hit out at Converse’s decision to axe many of their accounts by the end of this year.
Several independents across the UK have told Drapers the Nike-owned sneaker brand will no longer work with them from the end of 2018 following a change to its distribution strategy. They said no clear explanation has been offered or criteria given for those who want to continue working with the label.
It is not clear how many retailers are affected but several sources described the decision as “far-reaching”. Drapers understands that selected independents and larger multiples are not affected.
In a letter seen by Drapers to one retailer, Converse said: “After a review of Converse’s distribution strategy, we have decided that your business strategy does no longer match with the Converse strategy plans and needs. In this respect we wish to inform you that Converse has decided to discontinue its business with you.
“The business relationship will terminate automatically on 31 December without further notice being required. We strongly encourage you to already start anticipating this termination in order to successfully continue your business.”
One independent who has stocked Converse for 15 years said: “I spend about £25,000 a year with them, so that’s £50,000 of lost revenue. People come to my store specifically for Converse, and then when they are here, they pick up other things.
“It could finish some retailers. Independents have supported the brand for years but they don’t care about us.”
Another independent, which said it sells around £750,000 of Converse a year, commented: “It was very sudden and we’ve been given no clear explanation. We’ve always had a good relationship with Converse and we’ve always paid on time.
“There will be lots of casualties as a result of this – a brand like Converse is a lifeline for many retailers. This is another nail in our coffin, on top of business rates, high rents and discounting on the high street. We don’t need this as well.”
Another independent said: “We do small numbers [in terms of sales] with Converse, so it isn’t too bad for us. But I’m dreading what might come next: if this is a precursor for brands such as Nike pulling out of indies, a lot of businesses could go under.”
A spokesman for Converse said: ”We consistently evaluate our business to ensure we are best serving our customers and ensuring we continue to grow our brand. Part of that decision making is evolving our distribution strategy to better align with today’s consumer demand and the shifting state of the retail environment. We are confident that our multichannel product distribution network (which includes retail stores and ecommerce) provides all consumers and communities the opportunity to access and enjoy our brand and footwear, apparel and accessory products.”