Independent retailers are feeling the pressure as struggling high street stores slash their prices, marking the “deepest mid-season Sale in history”.
Professional services firm Deloitte has reported that this mid-season autumn Sale is the “deepest” it has seen historically, as panicked high street stores mark down new-season product by up to 60%. Among the retailers offering discounts on autumn collections are Topshop, John Lewis, Debenhams, Jigsaw, House of Fraser and Laura Ashley.
With Black Friday and Christmas just around the corner, independent retailers fear they will have to “fight for survival” against three continuous months of “unfair” Sales.
“This season has been unbelievably crazy. So many high street retailers are on Sale and it’s showing no sign of slowing down,” said Souraya Gyves, owner of footwear independent Esska in Chiswick, west London. “It is a vicious circle because we’re telling the consumer to wait for the Sale. How can independents compete with this?”
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She added: “It definitely puts pressure on independent retailers to go on Sale. Last weekend I offered free delivery for the first time. [Independents] try to hold off as much as they can, but there are times like this when you have to follow suit.”
Martin Brighty, owner of menswear tailor Peckham Rye in London’s Carnaby Street area, agreed: “All these Sales put pressure on indies, big time. Heavy discounting, on prices that the wholesaler or manufacturer already discounted, hurts. We are already under price pressure to compete as it is.
“It’s a fight for survival now.”
Several independents have boycotted the “Sale season”, because of its negative impact on the industry, and have called for other retailers to do the same.
“Discounting breaks trust,” said Karen Hume, director of A Hume Country Clothing in Kelso, Roxburghshire. “We will never partake in it.
“This may be detrimental to our sales, but we remain true to our values by supplying a quality product coupled with Rolls-Royce customer service.
“Discounting puts massive pressure on us, so we need to work with brands who are careful about who they supply and who have the same values and ethics as we do. It is dreadful for our industry and is not sustainable.”
The owner of a premium womenswear independent agreed: “[Discounting] has a negative impact on business because customers then expect us to follow suit.
“The implication of endless Sales will eventually undermine the value of all products, and can only lead to loss of profit margins and we know this is unsustainable in business.”