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Johnstons of Elgin bets big on wholesale

Scottish cashmere specialist Johnstons of Elgin is putting wholesale “right at the heart of its strategy”, despite challenges in the market, chief executive Simon Cotton has said.

Speaking at today’s Drapers Fashion Forum in London, Cotton stressed that although many brands only see opportunities in ecommerce or own retail, wholesale remains key.

“Brand shops are becoming more important for brands like ours. There’s the argument you get better margins, it is direct to the customer and it is a more intimate experience. But it is a high-risk strategy. The most lucrative retail locations are hugely expensive and secondary locations are becoming increasingly marginal,” he argued. “I’m happy we opened a brand shop on London’s Regent Street, but I’m not going to rush and do 50 of them.”

Johnstons of Elgin is instead focusing on using wholesale to understand customers and attract new shoppers to the brand, he added.

“A good wholesale partner understands customers and customers feel it understands them. It feels warm and inviting. It is possible to do as brand store, but it is very difficult.

“Wholesale partners also localise their offering, and understand what the local market wants and needs. Again, that is possible to do as a brand store but it is difficult to do as precisely and intimately.

“And finally, we need to get discovered. Not everybody knows what we do and it is an increasingly crowded market. It is difficult to be discovered in today’s market, but an easier way is to be in retailers.”

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