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Indies hit out at brands that allow heavy discounting

Independent retailers have lambasted brands that have agreed to heavy discounts on current season stock during the prime Christmas trading period, as the high street desperately tries to clear unsold winter items.

Indies up and down the country expressed anger at the promotions for the US-imported Black Friday on November 28 in particular, when key brands went on Sale on the high street, on their own websites or at rival stockists, with up to 50% off.

Many retailers also ran deep discounts on Cyber Monday (December 1) and Manic Monday (December 8) to take advantage of predicted peaks in trade.

Lauren Ferguson, owner of womenswear store Sisters Boutique in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, which has refused to run pre-Christmas Sales, said: “Trade is horrendous. Black Friday has only taught the public not to buy anything full price as you can get it half price if you wait.”

She dropped three brands after they offered discounts on their own sites for Black Friday, but not through her shop. “For me, that spells the end and it has made me clear that, going forward, I am culling brands who do not respect role of the indie in the fashion industry.”

Matt Horstead, owner of menswear retailer Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex, said he would now stick with brands that avoid Sales, such as DSquared, Canada Goose, Belstaff and Vivienne Westwood.

He said: “I can’t give away margin at this time of year. There’s so much pressure on us little guys that you feel you have to offer something. Something needs to be done to stand up to it.” Dartagnan has also refrained from discounting so far this season.

Similarly, Karen Hume, co-owner of A Hume Country Clothing of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, said nearby competitors discounted some of her key brands, which affected sales on the weekend of Black Friday through to Cyber Monday - although they have picked up since.

“I wish brands would stay strong and not allow discounting,” she said. “We’re getting to the place where we may have to can the brands that are doing it.”

Some indies felt forced to offer discounts or price match to keep up with the competition, and many said the problem was compounded by the mild weather that hampered sales of winter stock.

Michael Hughes, owner of independent department store Tom Hughes, which has three stores in west Wales, said he reluctantly price matched on a few brands. He added: “Autumn has been very difficult, particularly with the increased discounting online. It’s becoming more difficult to compete.”

Chris O’Dea, owner of premium menswear store OD’s in St Helens, which ran a 20% off promotion on Black Friday, agreed: “You have to keep up with the big retailers when it comes to discounting, otherwise you’re dead in the water.”

Lucy Stone of womenswear agency Richman Boutique Brands said: “The discounting is a big problem for me too. How can I convince someone to buy a brand when they know it will be 50% off the following week in the department stores?”

Readers' comments (7)

  • I've just come back from the U.S. and watched with interest the
    Discounting bun fight of Black Friday and that weekend , many
    fashion stores then struggle to revert back to full price , Macy's was 25% off virtually everything last week , and we are following suit , brands need to be strong and stand up to Mike Ashley , JD , Asos and HOF or indies will die out

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  • The biggest issue faced in the UK is that brands have no protection, in the sense that it's illegal for brands to tell stores they can't discount/what pricing level to use, or in fact tell them how to trade in any way. Of course it means working with the right stores who don't use discount models, but at this time of year when everyone discounts, it's hard for the indies to not follow suit.
    We should have a government imposed restrictions, like in France, where sales can't start until 5th Jan and there's only one 2 week floating period in the season when you can do a mid season sale/birthday sale etc.

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  • Here here. What ever happened to the good old British end of season sales. End of the British Summer and January sales, legendary and something to look forward to after the Christmas period. Brands need to stop this continuous discounting, Indies add flavour to the high street. One off sales in House of Fraser, now I don't bother, continuous 30% off signs splashed all over the windows don't make the stores look premium anymore, Also, some of the cheap brands House of Fraser stock, Debenhams also have a continuous sale. There's a Pattern forming here) It's not just about price to the customer, it's the shopping experience. These discounts are killing what the fashion industry is all about!

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  • Too much bleating! Deal with it, move on...

    Pipe dreams such as controlling discount periods as in the socialist republics of France and Italy (and elsewhere) are wide of the mark.

    The customer is king in a market where there is huge over-capacity. They don't need all this stuff and so expect a discount to add to their bulging wardrobes.

    Of course Black Friday is completely unhelpful for retailers but it's here to stay. It heralds the start of the winter sale at Harrods and Selfridges (inter alia) where the scale of over-buying and the profusion of overlapping and duplicated brands abound.

    What to do? Buy less, buy better, buy more frequently. Add value through better editing of ranges (and brands) and offering the best service. Etc, etc.

    Best of all stop bleating!

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  • darren hoggett

    The problem for me is the brands. It is illegal to for a brand to force a store to stick to price criteria (though this does go on) However, brands should be savvy enough to know where to place their product. The know who will discount and know who will not. But do they care?

    Brands essentially want two types of retailer. One is the high image account that gives the brand prestige and sold respectfully. The other is the low grade, big discounters who don't give a damn about the brand - I would include the likes of HOF and Debenhams in this - who overall work on much lower ticket prices and are often if not always on sale.

    From an Independent point of view, you have to stay clear of the brands that are over distributed, have weak sales teams and have no desire to work to make their brand more compact. Work with the brands you can take seriously to obtain margin which is what it is all about. We know many of the high street are clowns and independents have to learn not to be influenced by them and their obsessive discount culture.


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  • Having worked on both sides of the fence the stark truth is brands give multiples much better deals than indies on identical product , it's all down to volume , so retailers like John Lewis will get a very keen wholesale price on a forward order , the supplier is then expected to sit on back up stock to filter in as and when needed, the supplier will then give off invoice discount, retrospective discounts , advertising contributions , mark down contributions , and be lucky to turn a profit at the end of the day , indies pay full whack , pay 30-60 days , Mark down contribution , your kidding , no wonder the big boys can do regular promotions , as per the supermarkets it's the supplier that funds it

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  • I would love to hear what they are going to do about it , its a no win situation that will only get worse as the Web gets bigger and more important. I was one of the silly consumers who bought at the proper price only to be offered on line within 24 hours 30% discount on the coat! The average consumer is having a wonderfull time but I think even they are now confused when is the best time to buy.
    I am off to LVMH, PRADA, GUCCI ,ROLEX ,PORSCHE ETC TO SEE IF THEY ARE OFFERING ANY DISCOUNT!

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