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Indie trading hit over xmas

Independent retailers were hit by weak Christmas trading over the festive period as year-on-year sales dipped.

According to independent retailers polled by Drapers this week, heavy promotions helped to boost footfall and sales during the crucial Christmas trading period but overall numbers failed to match up to the 2007 Christmas period for most.

Kam Shoker, owner of young fashion mini chain Charlie Browns which is based in the West Midlands, said that trade over the Christmas period was down against last year. However he added he was optimistic about the year ahead.

Shoker said: “We followed the multiples and went on Sale two weeks before Christmas otherwise you just wouldn’t have got people through the door. It is going to be tough next year and we will have to tighten our belts, but you have to be positive because that is business.”

Heather Moore, co-owner of young fashion retailer Wild Heart in Bridgnorth, Shropshire experienced a more positive Christmas. She said: “Sales were up between 10% and 20% throughout 2008 compared to last year and we were really pleased with Christmas trading. We started our Sale the day after Boxing Day, as we always do, with the same level as discounting as last year. New stock will start to come in towards the end of January and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for this year.”

However Martin Jones, manager of menswear business Vaughan Davies in Mold in Wales said Christmas trade was tough and added that he anticipated margin pressures in the coming months: “Christmas was a little tough. The first two weeks of December were fine but we didn’t quite make our figures of last year in the last two weeks of the year.”

Jones added: “But the first week of the Sale, which we started on December 27, was a record week. We took advantage by opening on the Saturday and the Sunday and New Year’s Day, which will usually don’t do. From the end of January onwards it will be tough. Shoppers will be very price conscious and we’ll have to make sure we get our margin from somewhere.”

Jenny Lockton, co-owner of womenswear, kidswear and gift retailer Bohemia in Edinburgh, said: “Christmas trading was slow to pick up, with the credit crunch dominating the news, so even people who do have money to spend were reluctant to buy. We put some stock on Sale before Christmas, which is unheard of. Our shop sales were down on last year but our online sales more than made up for it, so we’re likely to be up as a whole on 2007. We had a lot more online sales than we were expecting, especially from Europe, where customers were probably making the most of the weak pound.”

John Dean chief executive of the BSSA said: “Independent department stores have found trading over Christmas quite tricky. There are one or two exceptions which have traded within expectations. However one menswear retailer [told me] it had had the best Christmas ever due to customers looking for quality over price. Independents seem to have held up quite well but the feeling for 2009 is pretty pessimistic. The Sales have virtually ended and independents are concerned that a long cold winter and spring lies ahead.”

Drapers is conducting an independent retailer poll by telephone around Christmas trading. The results will be published at later this week.

Also, take part in our exclusive online poll for independent retailers on the right of the screen.

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