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Talking Shop: 'Discounting for indies: our rules of engagement'

Tanya Marriott is owner of footwear retailer Solelution, which has two stores in Portishead and Clifton in Somerset.

Tanya Marriott

Tanya Marriott

As a small independent retailer, we are facing difficult decisions every day, particularly when the big multiples seem to be driven by sales targets and often go into Sale early. Do we follow? Do we take part in Black Friday? How do we stand out?

It is very easy to be directed by what is going on around us and feel that we have no choice. However, as independents, we need to make margin to survive, as this is what pays the bills.

With regards to discounting, rule one for us is to avoid it unless we are in our Sale periods. These tend to run from Christmas Eve until mid-February for our winter Sale and the end of July until early September for summer.

Rule two is to discount only by what I think we need to in order to clear the product initially. We always have a final reductions period towards the end of the Sale if we need to shift it for less.

Rule three is to only put product in the Sale that we think customers will not buy at full price. In my mind, there is no logic putting winter boots in the Sale in December, when the coldest months are January and February. We often wait till mid-January to see what the weather looks like before we discount - something that has definitely paid off this week.

I appreciate that we are lucky to be in local high streets without any multiples, so we are not quite as led by their actions as others might be, but, more importantly, we focus on what our business is good at.

Our customers come to us because they like what we offer, they like the service we provide and, in a way, we have coached them so they know we only go into Sale at certain times. They have the choice to buy when they see the product during the season and wear it immediately, or take a risk that it might not be there if they wait until the Sale.

I appreciate that what works for us may not work for others, but at Solelution autumn 14 has been another great season.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Thierry BAYLE

    As I work with retailers on buying / merchandising and open to buy, I wish to also share the following:

    You want to work discounts by product categories and it you are understocked then there is less a need to discount heavily compared to a product class where you are overstocked.

    We also need to raise the real question - one of the real one - which is why are we discounting:
    * get new traffic
    * push old goods - poor performers out
    * pay our bills
    we are also discounting because
    we have bought the wrong product or the wrong quantity or made it arrive in the store at the wrong time.

    Thierry Bayle

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  • Thierry BAYLE

    I also wish to better understand what we understand by discounting.

    Are we going to consider Discounting ONLY the fact we advertise the discount in the press, the window or are we also going to consider discounting the fact that I give 20% on 1/2/3 pieces I am trying to clear during the season?
    What happens to discounting with a VIP card? Is that part of the discount we should not do?

    I had a client where he was keeping the last pieces of a series for ever and therefore the store was looking like a vintage shop! It did not make sense not to push out promptly those pieces. Is that also discounting?

    Love to hear from you?

    Thierry Bayle

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  • Thierry BAYLE

    I like what Tanya mentioned as rule 3 - it may also fall in line on some occasions with the point I mentioned above.
    ie in February, your planned sales will show you that women will want to buy boots and discounts do not have to be so deep.


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