Independent retailers are maintaining full-price sales despite a wave of mid-season discounting by multiples and department stores on the high street.
Boutique owners told Drapers they were standing strong against discounting, choosing instead to focus on providing high-quality service and brands.
Darren Hoggett, owner of J&B Menswear in Norwich, said mid-season Sales were “the absolute worst thing you can do” and added that he had not felt any impact from high street discounts.
“We expected a warm September and early October, so we have the stock people want,” he said, explaining that he is still selling lighter products while multiples brought out their autumn stock in August.
Hoggett’s sales are up around 10% on this time last year, and he is expecting this to continue into Christmas and the new year.
“We’ve built a business based on a non-discount ethos and we’ve been paid dividends by standing firm – the others that do so will have a good Christmas,” he said.
The founder of Wilmslow-based boutique Black White Denim, Jo Davies, said she has not felt any effects of discounting so far this season, but added that it was just one of the many challenges she has faced – along with Brexit and the weather.
Davies often buys brands that are not widely available on the high street to mitigate the problem of multiples discounting the labels she sells. She instead focuses on quality and “the slow sell”.
However, when it is possible for people to compare prices, Davies said: “Customers often say to us, ’It might be cheaper elsewhere, but I’d rather buy it from you.’ That’s something we’ve worked really hard for.”
Neither Davies or Hoggett plan to participate in Black Friday on 23 November.
“I loathe everything about it,” agreed Karen Hume, director at Kelso lifestyle retailer A Hume Country Clothing. “We just batten down the hatches, don’t look at what’s going on out there and ride through the weekend.”
She also makes it clear to customers that A Hume will not be running discounts ahead of the event, “so they won’t hold off shopping with us thinking they’re going to get a deal”.
However, Psyche owner Steve Cochrane is bucking the independent trend and said that although he finds discounting creates “a race to the bottom,” he will be running light Black Friday promotions on his website this year.
“We’re trying to grow regular online customers and get our database back to what it was, because it was decimated by GDPR,” he said.
As for mid-season promotions, Cochrane is holding a four-day Sale at the end of October to push surplus Sale stock from previous seasons, featuring “absolutely no autumn product”.
“We’re not here to be on Sale, we’re here to sell at full price,” he said.