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Help-starved indies have stomach for fight

Boy, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? As we head into the last few months of the year, our stock looks great, the staff are pumped up and primed with every feature and detail that goes alongside each piece and our welcome mat is brushed and ready.

We are in the midst of what will be a final total of 23 fashion shows up until November, with more in the pipeline, and all have been well supported both in attendance and financially. Our rallying cry of: “Let the family starve. A girl’s wardrobe must be the last thing to go” has been well received by all.

We have launched an online shop this autumn, found some niche pieces that provide fabulous add-on sales at up to £200 a time and we are preparing for the launch of a new department in the spring, plus a wine bar and deli.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, is currently branded by The Sun as having “lost it” and is still refusing to roll over. VAT is such a thorny issue that I feel sure Labour won’t tackle it before the election, as it is such a vote loser. But in the meantime, what about us retailers? None of us are afraid of hard work (if we are, then we will be the next casualty) but I am offered no help or support as a small business by the Government.

The high street is already running mid-season Sales in readiness for their huge stocks of winter clothing to arrive. What message does this send out to the customer? It certainly negates all the work that we as independents put into our offer. I know of London Oxford Street stores that are running at 20% down on turnover. Maybe they should learn some tricks from the small shopkeepers up and down the country, while they are still there.

  •      Hilary Cookson is the owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire

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