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?”