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Indies consolidate brands to boost spring 11 profits

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.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Price increases are virtually irrelevant when compared to the real issue - distribution. Some brands still have a lot to answer for in that department. They like the mass volume/low margin sales of discount retailers yet want the low volume/high image of high end boutiques too. Thus leaving the quality middle market independent squeezed.

    Too many brands want it both ways and that is not sustainable. It is time for them to decide what and where they want to be. Problem is, some just haven't got a clue...

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  • It's no wonder indies are moving away from well established brands. I'm looking at a Gray & Osborne catalogue offering 25% off Autumn collections from Betty Barclay, Fenn Wright Manson, Joseph Ribkoff Basler, Gerry Weber to name a few. I think it fell out of the Sunday papers so widely distributed not just to those on their mailing list.

    I can understand why they are doing this. Their sales to February 2009 were down 12% and they made a profit of just £231,727 on sales of £23m. However, there is no point indies stocking labels that discounted at the start of the season. I'm definitely going to look to replace any labels wheere this happens.

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