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Holding nerve bears fruit for indies

Independent retailers have reported better than expected Christmas trading, with many sticking to traditional Sales timings against a backdrop of early discounting on the high street.

“December trade was our best ever,” reported Matt Horstead of menswear retailer Dartagnan in Chichester in West Sussex, who described it as a “strong end to a turbulent year”.

“It started very slowly and we had our worst December days’ trade during the week after Black Friday. But overall we finished up 10% on December 2013 and 5% up on our best previous December in 2011.”

This was echoed by Simon Poole, managing director of menswear retailer and brand Luke, who said the Christmas period was “a bit up and down, but very good”.

“We ended with a 23% increase online – the biggest increase for three years – and 6% in our bricks-and-mortar stores, which after the pain of August and September was super.”

Mark Hurley, owner of men’s, women’s and kidswear retailer Hurley in Bolton and Wigan, said: “We took more money in the week before Christmas than last year, and at full margin, so it seems to me the stores that jumped the gun and went on Sale earlier shot themselves in the foot. People want to buy then – they want to spend.

“For the Christmas period as a whole, we were up slightly in one store, down slightly in the other and the web was up a lot.”

In Birmingham, Phil Hazel, owner of menswear independent Liquor Store, explained that Black Friday drove footfall and the store had a very good day of trading, even though they offered no promotions.

“We went into Sale on Boxing Day as we have done previously and December was up 40% on the previous year,” he said.

Tanya Marriott, owner of footwear independent Solelution in Bristol and Portishead, Somerset, said she also found avoiding discounting until the winter Sale, which starts on Christmas Eve, to be a successful move.

“We have been doing this for the past few years and it seems to be working well,” she said. “Maybe this is due to our position on our local high streets; on Black Friday and Super Saturday these tend to be empty as the public head to the main shopping centres for their super discounts.”

Vince Clark, owner of menswear independent The Priory in Bridlington, Yorkshire, said he maintained good margins in the run-up to Christmas, but felt he had to start the Sale after the last shipping date for Christmas following other online retailers who had already started theirs. “Our online sales make up around 60% of turnover so we had to make the call to go into Sale as an etailer, even though we have two stores.

“We were up by 60% online and the stores also fared well, but we have opened our second store which played a part.”

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