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Richard Singlehurst

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

How is trade at the moment?
We’re doing ok; we’re slightly up on last year. We’re a destination denim store, we stock big name denim brands including Replay, G-star and Nudie Jeans, and we keep stock fresh and product new. We’re a good alternative to the major cities. We’ve had the store five years, sales have been increasing steadily, we’re not feeling the pinch.

Which brands are selling well?
Lyle & Scott, Nudie jeans and Gio-Goi. Lyle & Scott is doing particularly well, it’s got the product just right. It has a good celebrity endorsement; all the cool guys are wearing it.

Which categories are selling well?
Slimmer silhouettes, we’re selling lots more. Before we were selling boot cut, but we’re seeing more and more guys wear the skinnier jean. The trend is definitely to go slimmer, it will continue for a/w 08, about 65% of our jeans now have a slimmer cut. We’re also seeing darker, plainer washes and a cleaner look. Accessories is also a growing part of the business, it’s currently abut 25% of menswear sales. In certain brands it’s even heavier, such as Ted Baker.

Did you go to Bread and Butter?
Bread and Butter is not really for our market. It’s still good to go though, to speak to the other retailers and brands. It’s important to be seen by the brands, especially the ones we stock.

Are your budgets up or down this season?
Budgets are flat, but we’ll be doing more buying in season to keep the shop fresh.

How much of your budget are you holding back?
We’ll still buy the big brands forward order, but hold back about 25% for in-season buying. Most independents do it now, to spread budgets over a longer period. The benefit is you get to sell product, which is related to the time of year, at full price.

How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
Our competitors are multiples like USC and Republic, but we have a very different offer from a customers’ perspective. Although our brand mix is very similar, multiples can look uniformed, with limited lines for each range. But as a denim specialist we get to go in very deep with each brand, which enables us to offer more lines. The environment of our store also looks very unique, and the service we offer is personal. As a result, we have a very loyal customer base.

Does your store have a transactional website?
No, but we’re launching one in September, We’ve spent a lot on developing the site, it’s very visual. We will also have brands specifically for online. We will test them in store first, but then sell them exclusively online after that.

Richard Singlehurst, owner of young fashion independent Union Clothing in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

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