Anne Wright is the owner of womenswear independent Young Ideas in Ashbourne, Derbyshire
We bought Young Ideas in 2008 from the original founder who, having run it successfully for many years, was keen to retire. I had spent my entire career working in the food industry for Greencore, a major supplier to some of the UK’s biggest food retailers. However, my first love had always been fashion and, in many ways, the fast-moving food industry – with its demand for constant innovation and new product – is not as dissimilar as you would think.
It was exciting to buy Young Ideas – and in my home town of Ashbourne. The only trouble was my timing. Who can forget what happened to the economy from the end of 2008? Like many retailers, small, medium or large, we were badly hit.
Luckily, we came through it and feel we have a far stronger business today than we perhaps would have had without that experience.
It made me realise and fully understand what it means to be an independent retailer and how to survive. I was asked just the other day whether I felt independents could compete against the might of the multiples. My answer is an emphatic yes.
I believe there are many ways that an independent can differentiate themselves from the multiples. Most important is personalisation and customer service. Independents can – and should – know their customers intimately. We now have a database of more than 7,000 people. Our customers are not just names, though. The team know the majority of them very well and we will buy with them in mind. Buying teams from multiple retailers can only use data to make buying decisions. Multiples can use science, but you need art as well.
Multiples are increasingly resorting to price to win business. Independents simply can’t go down that path and we won’t. We have to provide targeted ranges and great service. Customers are getting more discerning and they want to feel that a shop is buying for them. By delivering this, we retain our customers’ loyalty and that is the lifeblood of any retailer, particularly an independent.