James Stacey, managing director of country clothing store O&C Butcher in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and a member of the International Menswear Company (IMC) buying group.
Our policy on mid-season Sales until now has been “not if we can help it”. We are fortunate in Aldeburgh that we’re slightly removed from the pressures of the high street and larger towns, so haven’t had to participate in mid-season reductions.
Having said that, we are not immune with the likes of Crew Clothing, Fat Face and Joules close by and often discounting mid-season. I have a lot of respect for bigger players who stick to their anti-discounting beliefs, such as Next and Jigsaw. They help restore the credibility and integrity of regular pricing with customers and create a better environment for the industry.
I understand that competition, cash-flow and stock-level pressures will give many independents little option and that their decision to discount is purely pragmatic.
I am always reviewing the situation and it requires increasing consideration each season. This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday reductions have certainly had an effect on customers in our sector and, while our sales figures haven’t suffered, customers have definitely bought elsewhere at a discount, because they’ve told me. Perhaps we are missing out on significant extra sales? But if we offer 20% this year, will we be setting a precedent and have to go to 25% next year? I know from speaking to friends in the IMC buying group that intense local competition gives them nowhere to go in terms of pricing and retail certainly isn’t easy. Like many independents, we carry quality brands, hold good stock and try to provide excellent customer service. So as long as our pricing remains competitive, shouldn’t this be enough?
I remain against mid-season Sales for our business and believe it would cost us more than we would gain. O&C Butcher has been here since 1884 and we are very much about quality and service, not just the cheapest price. Sales are vital, but so is margin. I believe in our product range and overall offer and I think full price is a fair price. However, I wouldn’t say I am 100% confident I will always feel the same way. Customers are increasingly well informed and aware that whatever the date, a mid-season Sale is probably happening somewhere!