Dave Conaghan owns young fashion indie Chocolate Clothing in Derry, Northern Ireland.
The shopping habits of our young consumers have changed dramatically since the online revolution but more so in the past five years, primarily down to the surge in smartphone usage in the UK, where fashion is becoming a lot more accessible and information on products is more readily available.
And now there is another trend that is growing at a considerable rate - supermarket fashion. The double-dip recession may have devastated the high street but it has provided a lift for supermarkets as customers turn to unbranded clothing in a bid to save money. Supermarkets are vying for the discount fashion pound, with a 30% rise in clothing sales in supermarkets between 2008 and 2013.
All the big boys, including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, have successfully made their mark within the fashion market with their brands F&F, George and Tu, respectively. This has been achieved through a number of strategies including product diversification, segmented marketing, increased online presence and TV advertisements. With the recent launch of Lidl’s fashion range, the fight for market share in the value sector is heating up even further. Our customers are flocking to these supermarkets and snapping up ‘throwaway’ clothes.
So what does this mean for the independent retailer? Our consumers are watching their pennies now more than ever and we need to capitalise on our strong points as an indie. We need to remind customers why they come to us rather than spending £6.99 on a pair of jeans in Lidl.
Excellent customer service is a priority and is one of the real pull factors for consumers visiting a local independent store, where the staff know their name and style. Customers feel more appreciated. Style and quality is another overriding factor that branded clothing has over the supermarkets, and as an independent retailer we have the advantage of giving our customers a carefully selected mix of product they want.
Durability and heritage are also important. When customers visit our store and purchase products they know they can get longevity from the garment and also be proud to wear that brand based on the story and heritage behind it. Independents need to adhere to these plus points of their business to prevent their customers from drifting off to the supermarket.