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The Indie beat

With the Liverpool One development aiming to transform the city's retail offer, established independents weigh up the opportunities and the competition


Matthew Street, Cavern Walks, L2 6RE

- Manager: Marvin Mills

- Brands: Chloe, DSquared, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Maharishi, Missoni, Moschino, See by Chloe, Versace

- Located in Liverpool's boutique arcade Cavern Walks, in the city's Whitechapel area, Cricket has carved a niche for itself selling exclusive designer product to the city's label-hungry shoppers, including footballers and WAGs - Wayne Rooney's girlfriend Coleen McLoughlin is reportedly a big fan. Just around the corner from upmarket shopping centre Metquarter, the area is also home to the likes of Reiss and Ted Baker.

How's trade at the moment?

There's a lot of disruption with all the digging and work going on to improve the city centre, so it's tough for a lot of the retailers at the moment. But we have our own reputation and are a destination store in our own right. A lot of our customers are footballers, so that helps us build up brands.

How will the development affect the city?

Maybe it will not be until 2009, but Liverpool One will add a whole new dimension. The conference centre and music venue will bring more people here. People always talk about Manchester as a big attraction for shoppers, but it doesn't have Liverpool's fantastic waterfront and won't have that pedestrian flow from the river down towards the shops once the scheme opens.

How will you cope with the increased competition?

The Metquarter opened nearby a year ago and has brought the likes of Hugo Boss and Armani stores, but it hasn't really been what I expected. Flannels has a store there, but I don't think it's as busy as expected. Even if there's a crossover in brands, often we offer a different part of the range, or we avoid the same key pieces and do something different that is more suited to our customers.

How has the Liverpool shopper changed?

Liverpool has always been a strong fashion city, and we've tried to introduce customers to new things. We introduced brands such as Maharishi, Missoni and DSquared to the city and built them up, so we have a good relationship with the brands.

What opportunities will there be for you in future?

There's the first Beatles-themed hotel opening nearby soon and the Liverpool One scheme will increase footfall in the surrounding area, so Matthew Street - where our store is located - will be really up and coming. The developers have talked to some independent retailers about being part of the scheme, but it's pretty expensive. For the first two years it will be great and everyone has nice shiny new shopfits, but then they'll have to work to ensure it's not like any other shopping centre.

Harvey Malcolm

23 Harrington Street, L2 9QA

- Founders: Alan Bass and Malcolm Povlo

- Brands: Harvey Malcolm, Jacques Monet, Van Gils, Van Heusen

- This classic menswear store has built a loyal clientele, including local businessmen and barristers. It was once a mini-chain of six shops in Liverpool and surrounding towns, but has gradually scaled down to a single shop in a secondary location as founders Alan Bass and Malcolm Povlo take a step back.

How's trade at the moment?

I don't want to put off our managers who are now running more of the business, but it has been tough. For owner-occupiers it's OK, but for other small businesses it's much harder. If I did things again, I'd focus more on brands rather than so much on our own label, which makes up about 70% of our offer. People seem to be more brand-focused a lot of time, even though the quality is often not as good.

What are the occupancy costs like and how have they changed?

We own the freehold of our shop, so with the rental increases it can be a good deal to be a landlord. Many small businesses like us say 'if someone will pay more in rent than the profit from trading, why bother?'.

How will the development affect the city?

Liverpool has had a tough time over the years, with the closure of the docks, certain political leadership and riots in the 1980s, but there's so much here in terms of culture and entertainment. The development will be great, not just the shopping, but the cruise liners coming in again and the new convention centre. It will add employment and increase pride in the city.

At the moment, parking in Liverpool is the big issue. It's free in the Trafford Centre in Manchester and in nearby Speke and Warrington, but here it costs almost £2 an hour in some places - including on Sundays. I don't know if parking at the scheme will be any different.

How will you cope with the increased competition?

Marks & Spencer and Slater Menswear are our biggest rivals and they are already here. A business such as Slater seems to be able to get better deals from suppliers because it buys in bigger bulk. But we've been here for so long that we've become a destination store with a very loyal customer base, so we don't need to be in a prime area.

Giancarlo Ricci

40 Bold Street, L1 4DS

- Managing director: Marc Goodman

- Brands: Armani Jeans, Hugo Boss, Stone Island, Victorinox

- This upmarket branded menswear store has a two-storey glass-fronted fascia on Bold Street - an independent hotspot. The family business has focused its attention on this shop after selling the adjacent unit, which housed a cafe and a womenswear shop. The store occupies a prime location and is only a few metres from many of Liverpool's other top independents, including Drome, Jeff's Of Bold Street and footwear business Ran.

How's trade at the moment?

A lot of retailers say things such as the roadworks in the city are causing problems, but I think trade is tough generally. It's not just that there are less people in town. It's also that more shops have opened so it is more competitive. When you add brands opening their own stores onto that, it makes it very tough.

How has the Liverpool shopper changed?

Liverpool has always had a great fashion offer. The guys that used to be dressed in tracksuits are wearing combats and hoodies now, and they'll get dressed up in the evening. They don't wear suits, except for work or special occasions, so we concentrate our suit offer on special occasions such as weddings or the races, where customers will spend more money and where we don't compete with the high street. The guys are still into their brands in Liverpool.

How will the development affect the city?

It will be good, but it will take some time to attract people into the city centre. I think the centre will achieve that. However, there will always be some shoppers who prefer to go to Manchester, Speke or Chester.

How will you cope with the increased competition?

We'll concentrate on service. I realised that I like to be on the shop floor and it's important for the business, and focusing on this one store gives me the opportunity to do that. We've also introduced made-to-measure own-brand suits, which have been selling really well and help to give the business a real point of difference.

What opportunities will there be there for you in future?

Taking a shop in the new development would be difficult. The developer does offer some incentives, but moving can be very expensive for a small business such as ours. Rents and rates are going up everywhere, but I think that Bold Street - where our store is situated - is the cheapest location in the surrounding area, so it will probably just build upon its reputation as the street where all the independent retailers are.

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