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Talking Shop: 'Strict brand restrictions do more harm than good'

Tony Symons is owner of Rogers Menswear in Herne Bay, Kent, and a member of the International Menswear Company (IMC) buying group.

 

Tony Symons

Tony Symons

For the year ending in February, Rogers Menswear will have made a significant gain on last year, which is encouraging given the climate in which we’ve been trading these past few years. We tend to look at December in isolation from the rest of the year and we were up by almost £2,000 this December, which is pleasing, given the slow start to the season.

This winter has obviously been dire for overcoats and I won’t be buying into that category at the shows this season, although I will look at parkas and anoraks since there was still demand for those last year. A new introduction to our shop floor was Meyer trousers, which we picked up at the IMC show last season. I was a little reticent about carrying a brand with a significantly higher price point, but they have performed surprisingly well with our customers. The gamble paid off.

It’s fundamental for me to provide choice within each category. There’s definitely an argument for buying fewer brands and buying into them in more depth, but that’s not my style and I value the spontaneity afforded an independent retailer, where I can give a new brand an opportunity. As an independent, I endeavour to source brands I feel could sit well in the shop and then work to build up loyalty for them among our customers.

One grievance I have concerns the restrictions some brands put in place in terms of buying. These rules can be limiting. On the whole, the minimums and selections across ranges work well for us. However, I get frustrated that we are not permitted to buy from a category other than our allocated ranges. If a customer requests a style from a range we don’t carry, we are obliged to direct them to another stockist rather than place a special order. As an independent retailer, where customer service is a priority, this is nonsensical.

In truth, I don’t feel such policies benefit either party. The retailer is in a position to use their established customer base to build up the brand on the high street and the brand has the opportunity to develop a strong relationship with a retailer over many years; both dynamics are mutually beneficial.

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