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Michael Thomson

Drapers probe leading Independents to get their View From The Shop floor.

How is the independent lingerie market overall?
The lingerie market will not be as badly affected as some sectors of the market, such as womenswear, because the prices are so much less. Women can come and treat themselves and know that they are not going to break the bank. There is also a huge amount of customer loyalty in lingerie, not just to the brands but also the shops because of the fitting expertise that is offered.

Which brands are selling well?
Pour Moi?, our own brand is doing really well. Other brands that are holding up well are Fantasie, Freya, Triumph and Vanity Fair.

Has the Vat cut affected your business?
We have not reduced prices because of the Vat cut, we are going to concentrate on doing promotions across the store on various lines. It is not feasible for us to change prices on every product in the shop and giving a price reduction at the till is not going to encourage anyone to purchase more.

How are you feeling towards Christmas?
It’s going to be difficult. December is 15% of our yearly sales so we have to make it work. Customers have precise budgets this year and with the high street doing 20% off promotions constantly they are choosing to get more for their money. We are going to have to match them to ensure that we clear the stock we need to.

How is trade at the moment?
It’s tough. We are actually selling more items but our customers are trading down- gone are the days for a lot of them when they would treat themselves to a £50 bra and £35 briefs to match. The £30 and above price points are performing at -50%. Our swimwear is doing well though, we’re getting a reputation for having a good selection all year round.

The trading environment is tough, has this affected the way you buy?
I have been a lot more cautious, some of the bras I stock have over 60 sizes so you have to be so careful when stocking a new line. I am concentrating on a lot more core product from the brands, with just a touch of fashion to get the customer interested. We have also dropped a few brands that are not performing, this stops me getting tempted by all their new product!

What is your priority over the next year?
Bringing down stock levels is my number one priority, this will help cash flow and prepare us for any problems we may have in the future.

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