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Indie uproar at 'deepest ever' discounting

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.”





Readers' comments (2)

  • With Indies being further squeezed, brands shaking their fists and big stores on life support, Retail heads ever closer to the end game with this season being absolute carnage.

    We could see a big split in the brand mix in the next two or three years between Indies and Multiples. It is increasingly clear that some brands are going and/or considering moving to DTC - passively, e.g closing various retail channels, potentially making the brand no longer viable to the retailer, or aggressively - terminating contracts, e.g Nike.

    Short sighted and legally dubious, on both counts.

    If the big brands that pursue this road, have so much cake it makes them sick, Indies will have a completely different mix and in the longer term, be all the better for it, as they won't have to worry about prices that they brands they once stocked are being sold at and achieve margin and profit - the main two things that have been forgotten about.

    One thing is for certain, this season will be the most discounted on record as it struggles to be fit for purpose.

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  • Martin Ailion

    To a degree, I agree with the above correspondent. I am an agent working with independent retailers on a daily basis. True, some of them are having a tough time, but the good ones are doing well. And why? Because they source well from labels that don't appear in stores and because they give unparalleled service. And that's the difference and that's why I believe there will always be independents.
    The demographics have changed, with few found in the cities and located mainly in suburbs and market towns, but they look after those customers, and there are still plenty, who don't want to a) shop online and b) don't want to go to the same old bland High Street Stores: those customers who enjoy the whole social side of shopping.
    And long may it continue.

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