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We build them up, then they knock us down

Sarah Murray, Owner, Jane Davidson in Edinburgh.

Sarah Murray

Sarah Murray

Most of the time I absolutely love having my own boutique. I love the buying, I love working for myself and the flexibility that gives me. I have a great team and amazing customers. However, there is one downside - the constant fight I have to keep brands exclusive.

Edinburgh is a small city and one of my major USPs is that if I sell an exclusive dress, one that retails at £1,000 or more, then I track that dress, so that two don’t turn up at the same function. How can I do that if there are two stockists within the same city and then six of those dresses?

In the past year, I have lost six brands to a well-known department store. When I say lost, I mean I dropped them because they were going to be stocked there. It’s exhausting and hugely frustrating, particularly when, as an independent, I have taken on the risk when the brand started out. I paid a deposit on ordering and paid pro forma for the first season to get them on their feet.

First seasons with new brands can be tricky, so more often than not we struggle - but we work with it and encourage customers to try them out. Then quickly the brand grows in popularity with us and we develop a thriving customer base for it. Then wham, they want to “increase the supply channel” by selling through another store on my doorstep. I would understand if I was writing only a minimum order, but my buys were growing steadily season on season. Short-sighted and greedy on the agent’s part, I think.

The final straw came this week when said store decided to ship up one of my best-performing brands for a fashion show. And for the two weeks after the event, they offered 15% off new season stock. Honestly, some days I feel like giving up. But I won’t, I’ll fight and guard my favourite brands and increase my spend with them.

In this week’s drama, the supplier in question acted quickly and was horrified on my behalf. Stock was removed and a message sent out that early discounting just will not be condoned. If only all my suppliers rewarded my loyalty like that.

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