Overall, womenswear sales in the 35-year-old-plus clothing market were flat year on year at £7.8 billion for the 24 weeks to September 14, with multiples’ market share steady at 24.5%.
However, womenswear independents bucked that trend by growing market share from 6.7% to 7.5% against the same period last year.
Women shoppers are increasingly being drawn to independents as purchases become more considered in the downturn, giving independents the edge over multiples.
TNS Worldpanel Fashion client manager Elaine Giles said: “In the current economic climate women are shopping around more, and as they are being forced to buy fewer items they are taking more care over the choices they make, which suits the independent business model.
“We are seeing people trading up slightly, with more investment purchases. They are enjoying the shopping experience more, rather than buying lots of items.”
Elspeth Mills, owner of womenswear indie Elspeth Mills, which has three stores in Cheshire, said: “Independents offer choice and individuality. There are too many towns with the same shops and the same stock. If customers have less money to spend, they will be much more discerning with what they buy and where they buy it.”
Charles Simons, owner of womenswear indie Donna in Cockfosters, north London, agreed that service and ranges were the key point of difference for womenswear indies. “We offer good prices and value for money,” he said. “Multiples are cutting down on staff, which doesn’t help. Retail has always been a service industry, now more than ever.”
Similarly, footwear independents also managed to grow their womenswear market share to 1.7% for the 24-week period, compared with 1.4% the previous year. This was against the multiple footwear market which lost 0.2% of market share, taking the sector down to 4.5%.