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Indies are united in a common cause

Arguably there should not be any such thing as ‘the typical womenswear independent’, since one of the biggest strengths of any independent fashion business should be its individuality.

But the challenges facing most independents are broadly the same – competition from the high street and the internet, rising running costs and so on – which is why this week Drapers has attempted to provide a benchmark against which these stores can measure themselves with our Portrait of a Boutique survey.

We questioned 100 womenswear boutiques on a number of key factors concerning the size, shape and prospects of their business and how and what they buy (and crucially, what they sell). It is a fascinating read and demonstrates that this is a sector that is much more dynamic than it is perhaps given credit for.

A couple of statistics jumped out at me as particularly noteworthy. The first was that 12% of these stores have a transactional website. That’s not so bad when you consider that many high street giants in the UK have still not set one up (including Gap). It is also good to see that well over half (58%) of womenswear indies change their window displays every week and that 2.24 new brands are introduced each season.

However, change is not always a good thing, especially when it comes to staff, so it was pleasing to note that the average length of service for an employee is almost 10.5 years. The typical high street store (and there most certainly is such a thing) prides itself on its speed when it comes to trends and technology, but I bet it would be happy to be just as slow as the typical indie when it comes to staff turnover.

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