Independent retailers are aggressively consolidating their brand mixes for spring 11, axing labels that have underperformed, brands that are perceived to be over-distributed or those that have put up prices.
Some 74% of womenswear indies and 62% of menswear indies in the premium sector polled for this week’s Drapers Indicator survey said they would buy more deeply into fewer brands in spring 11, and indies in other sectors are following suit.
Cambridge designer indie Giulio said it would increase the number of pieces sold for spring 11 by about 25% by dropping “overexposed” labels such as Ralph Lauren and DKNY and buying less widely distributed brands that are about 25% cheaper at wholesale.
The move will increase Giulio’s average mark-up from 2.6 to 2.9, according to owner Giulio Cinque. “Stores like John Lewis are taking the obvious names like Ralph Lauren, Armani Jeans and Hugo Boss. So if you’re an indie and you’re not moving away from these brands, you are in the same market as middle-of-the-road department stores, which is not where you should be,” he said.
Many brands have responded to the rising costs of materials, freight and labour, and the impending January increase in VAT to 20% by pushing up wholesale prices and squeezing retail margins.
Pauline Tyrer, manager of contemporary womenswear indie Fall Woman in Knutsford, Cheshire, said she had dropped five brands and added two for spring 11, in order to improve her offer and margins.
She said: “Customers want something no one else in the area has but they also want value for money, so I’ve taken on brands such as Keep Zero Gravity, which has a jersey dress retailing at £120 that can be transformed into 12 different pieces.”
Many stockists were also shifting their focus to less established brands to differentiate their offer.
Nicola Scott, owner of contemporary womenswear indie Bunty & Co in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, said: “We’ve cut our budgets by about 30% but are focusing spend towards more unusual brands with smaller distribution such as Maison Scotch.”
Tony Young, manager of premium men’s young fashion indie Le Monde in Wolverhampton, said: “We’re now buying new brands and cutting down a lot of the play-it-safe brands that aren’t selling.”
Neil Sutherland, buyer and director of premium menswear and womenswear indie Kafka in Aberdeen, added: “Previously we relied on big-name brands, but now we’ve been introducing smaller, niche lines.