Young fashion independents are following the lead of multiple retailer USC in cutting back on branded womenswear, as the big labels fail to compete with the high street.
Utter Nutter in Romford, Essex, is to scrap the majority of its womenswear offer for spring 08, while Fusion in Preston in Lancashire is considering starting an own label after disappointing sales from big names such as Diesel and G-Star.
Utter Nutter will axe most of its womenswear, which comprises 30% of its offer and includes labels such as Diesel, G-Star and Pepe Jeans London. Store manager Sanjay Yagnik said: "Three shops have transformed young fashion on the high street - Primark, New Look and H&M. If something comes on-trend they can get it on the shop floor at low prices now, whereas we order nine months in advance."
He added that his branded women's denim offer had struggled due to high price points. However, the store will still sell Paul Frank womenswear, which has performed well.
Joe Lowcock owner of women's young fashion independent Fusion, which stocks Bench, Playboy and Lipsy, agreed that branded womenswear sales were suffering from increased competition from multiples. He added that denim was particularly hard hit. "I'd estimate 90% of my customers wear River Island jeans," he said.
USC revealed last week that it was poised to discontinue its own-brand womenswear offer and half of its branded offer (Drapers, May 26).
Carl Bruens, buying director at rival chain Republic, did not believe USC's decision would affect Republic's sales. "I don't think we'll be mopping up," he said.
Bruens added that although he was pleased with Republic's womenswear performance, it was becoming tough to keep up with vertical retailers. "We've got to maintain our pricing architecture and not compete with value players," he said.