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Indies optimistic about 2018 after strong Christmas

Independent retailers have expressed confidence about 2018 after a “buoyant” Christmas trading period. 

The BRC-Springboard footfall monitor shows a 4.6% drop in footfall on the high street in December compared with 2016. Yet indies across the UK reported a busy festive period, and an increase in sales.

“We’ve been here for 32 years and this was the best Christmas yet,” Gerard Levy, owner of footwear store Spice London in Primrose Hill, told Drapers. “We’re feeling very positive about the year ahead.”

Jo Davis, owner of unisex boutique Black White Denim in Wilmslow, was also optimistic: “It was the best December we’ve ever had. Sales were up 47% from last year. We’ve got some good building blocks in place.

“Our customer base, frequency and average basket spend has increased. I think that’s down to having a better range of price points and a mix of brands that people can’t readily get elsewhere.

“It’s looking really positive for 2018. Looking at our financial year, which starts in September, we’re 50% up on last year and 20% ahead of our targets.

“There are always potential challenges: the continued threat of Brexit, the weather and other retailers discounting. We just keep our heads down and focus on what we’re doing here. We look make our loyal customers feel like they’re getting something they can’t get anywhere else.”

Guy Hudson, owner of menswear retailer Lynx in Harrogate, agreed that differentiating his offer boosted sales: “There’s so much pressure on the average pocket of disposable income now, so we have to make our business more individual than it ever has been. We’re open to new brands – most of the things we are currently bringing in are European.

“Christmas trading was really good and the last two weeks have been up on last year.”

Neil Vernon, head of menswear retail at contemporary independent Dapper Street in Newbury and Whitney, said festive sales were up 10% on 2016: “Christmas trading was quite buoyant. The fact that we’re in smaller towns could have helped sales, as people didn’t want to travel far and so have shopped locally.

Our Newbury shop has just been refurbished and we have maintained our margins, which are up about 15% up on last year, so 2018 looks promising.”

However, some retailers expressed concern over rising costs and continuing uncertainty about Brexit.

“Interest rate rises, the prices of utilities keep going up and what’s going to happen with Brexit?” said Matthew Cable, owner of womenswear retailer Nautilus, in Guernsey. “Is everyone going to be able to get their stock without problems? Is the pound going to go drastically down? These are all worries.”

Sean Machin, store manager of menswear store Christopher Scotney in Leicester echoed this, warning consumer confidence could be dampened: “People are being a bit more cautious with spending and I don’t think Brexit is helping things. We don’t know whether we’re going to end up in or out of the European Union at the moment and the uncertainty is making shoppers uneasy.”

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