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Brands’ retail empires are another nail in our coffin, say angry indies

Independents are re-evaluating their offers as a growing number of brands expand via standalone stores.

Last week, Dutch young fashion brand Scotch & Soda said it would open stores across key UK cities. Retailers told Drapers that Scotch & Soda’s strategy is part of a trend among some brands to move away from smaller accounts, putting pressure on stockists to compete with brands’ online and bricks-and-mortar stores.

Yvette Davies, owner of contemporary womenswear retailer Thirty Three Boutique in Lymington, Hampshire, described the move by brands as “another nail in the coffin for indie boutiques”. She added: “You can’t compete with that sort of thing and the range they have.”

Denise Potter, owner of contemporary womenswear boutique Darcy B, which has two stores in Suffolk, said there is a lack of trust felt by indies towards certain suppliers: “We’re not being shown much loyalty by some of the brands. It’s tougher and tougher on indies to find labels that are exclusive.”

Matt Horstead, owner of menswear store Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex, said he saw a decline in sales of Hugo Boss when the brand opened an outlet store nearby two years ago. Horstead said: “It took a massive dent – almost 40% on what our business was and we’ve still not recovered.”

Some retailers are increasingly feeling pressured to compete with brands online. One womenswear indie owner said she has now altered her strategy for dealing with brands that have developed ecommerce operations. “We’re trying not to stock any brands that are in department stores or have their own websites – they lose focus on the wholesale,” she said.

Nick Benn, owner of young fashion retailer Northridge Clothing in Sheffield, said he had been forced to reduce prices on products in a bid to match the lower prices on brands’ own websites. “They do reductions, which means we have to drop the Sale [prices] a lot more,” he said.

Readers' comments (14)

  • When Gunwharf Quays outlet village opened in Portsmouth the big brands moved in.....Adidas, AllSaints, Barbour, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Fred Perry, Gant, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Levi's, Nike, Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren, Superdry, Ted Baker, Timberland, Tommy Hilfiger, Vans, Wolsey. The major problem this presented our business in the City Centre was the location - a 10 minute walk ! We saw sales on certain brands decline by 80% in one season. Most brands didn't even have the respect to tell us they were even opening. We had to cut brands out completely and decrease numbers and the way we bought the remaining ones worth carry on with. The bigger a brand gets the less relevant independents business becomes.

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  • While brands want their 'cake and eat it' there is a certain irony. Brands often have a very idealistic and even naive view of who their customer is and this reflects in their own stores. They get it wrong and don't make a dime, yet will be openly critical of some of their retailers for not doing what the brand wants them to do.

    My advice is never let a brand tell you what they want you to do until at least they've got their act together first. Brands should stick to being wholesalers because they rarely, if ever, show they can do retail properly.

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  • Hugo Boss are without doubt probably the most aggressive and underhand company to apply this strategy without even having the good manners to inform or discuss with their often longstanding retailers who have helped build the brand in that particular area of their intentions.
    Mini chain retailer John Anthony in the south west, a Hugo Boss client for over 27years set a very good example of showing his disgust by cancelling all his orders with the company when they, without informing him, opened a standalone store two hundred yards from one of his stores in Bristol.
    Maybe it's time for retailers to start planning their exit strategy with these companies and focus on becoming truly independent once again, before they let these companies totally consume them.

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  • Really, what do you expect the brands to do?! Independents are hard to service, they buy small amounts and require ever increasing mark ups. Its obvious that brands are going to see that they can control their own presentation to the consumer and gain the vertical margin. Independents don't pay their bills anyhow!

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  • Having recently told Harvey Nichols where they are going wrong, perhaps Mary Queen of shops also knows the answer to this situation ?

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  • Brands will do want they want to do, the problem is too many brands and not enough retailers to support this any more, so there options are limited to grow or even sustain a profitable business - probably means there will be a few (bad ones hopefully) that go bust!

    stand alone branded shops rarely work outside London unless they have the whole offer to support a store and the infrastructure and margins to match.

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  • the problem is European brands like Scotch and Jack Jones who have been very successful outside the UK, fail to understand that the UK retail scene is different, and they will burn a lot of cash trying, then you look at some of the others who have dipped there toes in the water, Lacoste (doesn't make money out of retail) Henri Lloyd the same, Luke have done it the franchise route who are not making money from it, GStar struggling to make it work with both own stores and franchise, then you get all the driver owner brands like Common People, Weekend Offender, Duck & Cover who will all fail in the end mainly down to product, lack of infrastructure and people who understand how to run a retail business

    Boss, well Jury is still out and it will be interesting if they can sustain it in the end, there advantage was taking over an established store portfolio where the initial ground work was already done from Moss

    Ted Baker is probably one of the few brands that have rolled out a successful portfolio of store across the UK - most of the others have stuck to London which is probably where they will be most successful but if they don't make it there then that should be a warning to them not to venture outside the capital!

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  • Anonymous on the 29th of August is a bit tough. Or is bitter a better word. Most indies are in the business because they have a love of fashion, clothes etc. Sure one or two have occasional payment issues, but without them who would set the styles, trends and build the brands?

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  • what above got to do with brands opening stand alone store!!

    perhaps you need to read the article..

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  • If I was a brand and saw that a stockist in a certain area selling well then I would obviously look at setting up a stand alone store there. It's nothing personal, just business.

    Why all the indignant rage? The indie crowd have this annoying sense of entitlement about them whereby if they stock a brand they are owed exclusivity/mark ups/preferential treatment purely on the basis that they are a stockist!

    Unfortunately it's time to wake up and realise that you need the brands - they don't need you.

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  • 95% of brands are not strong enough to trade well
    Outside of London as a mono brand format , Scotch and Soda
    Won't work outside London , it's men's line is too Euro,
    We've seen hundreds try and fail , also disagree that indies need brands more than brands need indies , there are so few of us left now I am inundated with brands wanting to supply my business.
    If a brand opens in a factory shop setup/ Macurthur Glenn etc , drop them , your name above the door is the most important , brands come and go.

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  • Indies don't need arrogant brands - period.

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  • Indies need a special and unique brand and product mix. As soon as the brand goes mainstream or starts targeting direct to consumer it's time to move on because in this day and age indies can never compete on price but can excel in style and brand edit.

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  • Retail was a better place years back when Brands had one indie store per city. No-one stood on each others toes, INDIES themselves were all different in there own way and people made money.
    These days BRANDS havn't helped themselves by trying to grow too quickly and over distribute there product into more than 1 store per city, Shop in Shops and Standalones. This in turn has made a lot of indies now look the same, the high streets all look the same as each other which has only created increased competition and too much discounting.
    Only recently I have built a brand up in my store over the last 5 years, spending from £5k upto £45k seasonal orders and now I've been told that another store in the City is to receive a shop in shop on the brand as my store doesn't have the footfall that is required for the shop in shop?!?!

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