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Indies pin hopes on careful buying

Independent retailers have warned that careful buying will be even more important this year, as they expect limited growth in the face of unpredictable consumer confidence.

Indies that Drapers spoke to this week said January trading was mainly in line with expectations, as they predicted a slower-than-usual month and adjusted stock levels accordingly. Others were relieved that the recent cold snap helped to boost sales of heavy knitwear and outerwear.

Many reported good sales last weekend, thanks to a combination of mild weather, pre-Valentine’s Day purchases and the end of a quiet January.

“We recently refurbished the ground floor and last week was very busy, so a good start to the year,” said Hilary Cookson, owner of occasionwear boutique Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire.

However, most found sales in January were on a par with or slightly down on 2013. Sheila Burton, owner of mainstream womenswear store Anna Perena in Glossop, Derbyshire, said: “January has been quieter than usual and people are still watching their money. We are struggling with some of the higher-priced brands so I’ve kept some budget back to do some in-season buying and will look to add more accessories, as these are an easier sale.

“Capri Clothing, one of our lower-priced brands, had the best sell-through for autumn 14 so I’m thinking of bringing more in at that price point – we’ve ordered short-order brand A Postcard From Brighton [wholesaling from £9 for a vest to £20 for a chiffon-backed top] for spring 15.”

Richard McLaughlin, owner of premium retailer Attic Clothing, which has three stores in Scotland, said: “We finished January almost exactly the same as last year, almost to the pound. I think for us 2015 will be much the same as last year, although we had a very good 2014 so we’re not expecting the same level of growth year on year.”

This note of caution was echoed by Richard Rutherford, owner of lifestyle retailer Rutherford & Co in Morpeth, Northumberland: “I don’t think we can expect much growth in 2015. It will help trade to get the election out of the way, because we all need stability.”

Beth Webb, owner of vintage-inspired womenswear etailer Rockmyvintage, said: “January matched last year in terms of sales but discounting [by multiples] is getting worse. It kills us to have to give away margin.”

For many retailers, tighter stock control is a key part of their growth strategy for 2015. “It feels like deliveries of new stock have been a bit slow, but I think that is because our stock levels have been quite low as we bought more cautiously last season and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” said Alice Lee, manager of premium womenswear store Catfish in Norwich.


Readers' comments (1)

  • Gareth Jones

    I think one of the issues that we face every January, and seem incapable of changing, is that we fill our shops with Spring product, when in the consumers mind it is still the middle of winter. Snow on the ground and light weight, garments and a summer colour pallet do not promote sales. The old saying "the right product at the right place at the right time" seems to be forgotten. Now, more than ever, there is a "need it, buy it" mentality, and if we fill our shops with Spring and Summer products (too early) we will only get one result. Now that many brands have reverted back to just two seasons, the problem is more evident.
    Managing the change of season is a huge issue. The difficult economy and consumer confidence is what it is. We cannot change that, but we can change what when deliver product. The high street going into sale in December to clear space for Spring stock in January is a folly. As an industry we cut our own throats every year, and every year January disappoints.

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