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We held our nerve and the money finally came

Paul Turner-Mitchell

Having decided to expand and invest in our business last year, Christmas trading was always going to be crucial for us given the increase in overheads.

Having decided to expand and invest in our business last year, Christmas trading was always going to be crucial for us given the increase in overheads. Moving into larger and more prominent premises at the end of November, it was going to be an early indication for us whether the decision to invest to try to stay ahead of the curve for when we emerge from the economic downturn was the right one.

Fortunately, sales for December were up 165.27% and Christmas trading surpassed our expectations. The average transaction value per customer actually rose 4.85%.

Web sales also performed very strongly, up 45.25%, helped, undoubtedly, by the adverse weather in early December.

What saddened me was the annual game of chess between high street chains and shoppers. For the previous two years discounting came early due to the recession. This time it was due to the weather.

Unfortunately, many indies felt compelled to follow suit. We held our nerve and the money did finally come. Indeed, Christmas Eve was our busiest day of trading, not only during the Christmas period but in our three-year history.

I made a conscious decision early last year that we would not stock any homogenous high street looks. Our focus instead is on those labels that have been conceived, designed and priced to serve the space between the catwalk and the chain stores while providing individuality and exclusivity.

With this ethos, we felt there was no need to rush into early discounting. Indeed, our January Sale must be one of the very few that now actually start in January.

Our feet are, however, firmly on the ground and I am bracing myself for a difficult time ahead with the VAT increase. There has never been a better time to go back to basics, review all costs and, above all, innovate. I fear only the fittest will survive.

Paul Turner-Mitchell is director of young fashion indie 25 Ten in Rochdale

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