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Take a risk, but make sure it’s calculated

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately it doesn’t help us much in the fashion industry, where what is required is foresight, or a crystal ball.

Not only do we need to decide what people will want to wear in six months’ time, we also need a knowledge of meteorology to know if it will be a long, hot summer or a short, wet one. We now need to know what will happen to the economy - no mean feat given that most world leaders did not see the current crisis coming.

So what should you do? Keep your ear to the ground and be ready to react quickly as events unfold rather than try to second guess them. This means keeping close to the shop floor and speaking to as many people as possible - customers, staff and suppliers.

This is hard work because as your business grows, owners tend to get further from the front line. The great news is that indies are much better placed to react quickly to change than larger retailers weighed down with long decision-making chains. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence already that independents are faring better than multiples.

I have seen a return to investment dressing and an appreciation of good service. Many customers have also told me that they want to spend any money they have in local shops as they fear for the decline of their neighbourhood, and because it feels more ethical.
Lastly, never forget that a recession is a great time for opportunity. Landlords are offering better lease terms, there are gaps in the market left by the departure of others, and new ways of doing business with suppliers keen to sell. I started my own business in the teeth of a recession and would recommend it to anyone hesitating about whether to take the plunge.

  • Bashir Mohammed is owner of independent designer fashion business American Pie

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