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Indies bank on Christmas after inconsistent year

Retailers determined not to miss out as figures suggest shoppers are starting to spend again.

Independent retailers are hoping for a bumper Christmas to lift 2013 sales and are planning a host of marketing strategies and events to tempt customers in-store.

After an inconsistent summer of trade, indies told Drapers they were pinning their hopes on a good Christmas. Steve Cochrane, owner of Middlesbrough department store Psyche, said: “The first half of the year was mixed at best.

Christmas is vital, provided people hold their nerve and don’t go on Sale before Christmas Day.”

Chris O’Dea, owner of contemporary retailer OD’s in St Helens, Merseyside, said he was hoping to “get to Easter [2014] on what we take from Christmas”.

Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday and hopes are high for good trading over the weekend before. Grace Barby, owner of Wolverhampton womenswear store Grace & Glory, is considering opening outside of her usual trading hours to exploit the potential for Christmas profits.

Retailers expect this festive season to bring a real boost compared with last year. Adriana Green, co-owner of womenswear store Scarecrow Boutique in Crouch End, north London, said: “Last Christmas was the quietest since we opened, with a lot of customers cutting back, going away, or not bothering with it at all.”

Kashif Qazi, owner of denim retailer Utter Nutter in Romford, Essex, said last winter was “very flat - we had very late trade, with no movement on heavier items”.

This year retailers are hoping to be better prepared to boost footfall and consumer spend. Darren Evans, owner of Smart Ass Menswear in Conwy, north Wales, plans to capitalise on the town’s late-night shopping events by putting on some in-store entertainment. “Hopefully people will see what’s here and come back,” he said.

Barby plans to host Christmas shopping events for Grace & Glory’s customers. “We do champagne events and have a 15%-off Saturday. Lots of ladies come in together - they invite friends and buy gifts.”

Some independents are marketing outside their local areas this year. OD’s has struck a deal with Wigan Athletic FC, which will see the store featured on the electronic advertisement board in the club’s DW Stadium during match day and in the match programme.

The store is also planning to text 8,000 customers on Christmas Eve promoting deals and offers following the success of last year’s Sale, which saw a “queue outside the store five deep and 150 feet long”, said O’Dea.

Jo Davies, owner of premium womenswear boutique Black White Denim in Wilmslow, Cheshire, is also planning a new marketing strategy for the Christmas run-up. “We’ll be launching a loyalty scheme in September which we can use to tactically drive more traffic through December by increasing reward points,” she said.

Independents have told Drapers that since the recent heatwave, trade has picked up and they are feeling more confident about the year as a whole.

Figures published last week by the Office of National Statistics showed a 3% rise in the volume of products bought across the retail sector in July compared with the same month last year, with the amount spent rising by 4.9%.

Although the majority of this came from food, non-food also grew.

“I’m totally convinced we’ve turned a corner,” Cochrane said. “I’m expecting all of retail to have a huge Christmas.”

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