Several independent retailers across the UK are falling behind on payments following a difficult start to 2018, agents have told Drapers.
Brand representatives have reported many boutiques asking to stagger payments or cut orders for autumn 18 as a result of dampened demand on the high street in February and March.
One menswear agent said he was spending more time chasing payments: “It is a shame because, as sales agents, we should be selling not chasing [money]. It damages the industry, as our conversation is usually about brands, collections, seasons, but it turns to ‘you can’t pay your bill, we won’t deliver’.”
One womenswear agent agreed it was a problem: “If a retailer can’t pay on time, some brands will hold back the collection. [As a result] lots of shops haven’t got the right stock.”
Another womenswear agent said trading conditions had hit many well-respected independents hard: “Currently even the really good indies are struggling – award-winning boutiques that usually weather the storm are feeling it this time.
“They are all saying it’s been the hardest quarter for a long time.”
Several independent fashion retailers have closed in recent weeks, among them Bibi & Mac in Salcombe, Devon, and Windsor-based Cognito, which appointed administrators on 3 April.
One footwear independent said he was cutting down his orders in reaction to low consumer confidence: “We are tightening our orders up a bit. We aren’t making those extra purchases that you may do if you had confidence.”
He added that brands and agents are trying to be flexible to accommodate the challenging environment: “I think most [brands or agents] would prefer it if you told them you were in trouble. We have had agents come to us to say: ‘Let us know if you can’t pay’ for the first time this season.”
Darren Spencer, who has run Jazz Clothing in Grimsby for 31 years, said the current climate was unprecedented: “It has probably been the toughest trading conditions in 30 years. I have reduced my forward commitment, and cut back autumn 18 ranges dramatically. Economic uncertainty has hit people’s spending habits.”