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Unreasonable demands put a strain on indies

Helene Rapaport, owner of designer womenswear indie Bernard Boutique in Esher, Surrey

Although in business for more than 46 years, we are a single-location boutique, and so our buying power cannot rival a multi-store independent, but sometimes this is difficult to explain to a supplier who is only looking for growth. We all need growth, but in these difficult times this is not always possible.

If we don’t reach minimums, some suppliers try to curtail us putting product online, although in law there is nothing to stop us.

They also sometimes want hefty deposits on orders. Surely an order not quite meeting the minimum is better than no order at all? A retailer buying what it feels it can sell and pay for might return the following season, but when forced to overbuy it can only have an adverse effect.

Retailers have to buy pre and mainline collections and some suppliers demand representation of both. Having to buy both not only forces our budgets and travelling costs up but leaves us with no space for new designers.

Thankfully there are some agents who represent great designers that do not impose these strict minimums, and this gives the brands they carry the opportunity to be showcased in independent stores.

We also have to contend with websites that are continually discounting. But despite all this, my recent experiences with many of our suppliers were conducted with genuine warmth and I’ve had continued support from them, which is why I still love what I do.

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