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Indies’ Day verdict: a great idea that lacked publicity

Despite a groundswell of enthusiasm for the UK’s first Independents’ Day, held this week, fashion retailers have called for more publicity at next year’s event to maximise returns.

Many of the indies Drapers surveyed said the drive to champion the nation’s indies, which took place on Monday to coincide with US Independence Day, was not promo-ted well enough to have real impact.

Organised by Skillsmart Retail, the campaign was unveiled in May and was designed to encourage the public to buy at least one item from a local retailer on July 4.

Kidswear boutique Boy Meets Girl in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, only heard about the event the previous week in an email from the organisers. A spokeswoman said: “It’s a brilliant concept, but you could have walked down Gerrards Cross high street, where there are a lot of independents, and nobody would’ve known about it.

“If there had been national coverage a month before, it would have made an impact. We did not see a rise in sales, despite promoting it heavily using Facebook and Twitter.”

Clare Yuille, co-owner of Plaisir in Biggar, near Edinburgh, said: “Independents’ Day didn’t make much difference to us. We didn’t know about it until a few days ago so there wasn’t time to spread the word in our community.”

She added: “This kind of initiative needs a higher profile and more time to change shoppers’ habits.

A day is not enough to have lasting impact. It needs to be a month-long campaign.”

Deryane Tadd, owner of womenswear indie The Dressing Room in St Albans, had better results online than in her shop on the day. She offered a buy-three-get-one-free offer in store, which had a marginal impact on sales, but doubled online takings by offering free delivery on all web purchases made on July 4.

Tadd said: “It’s still a Monday, which is one of our quieter days - we didn’t want to put too much into it in case nobody came in.”

Lesley Drummond, owner of womenswear indie Vivaldi in Edinburgh, wanted the event “on a weekend and over a few days”.

Womenswear boutique Press in Primrose Hill, north London, spread the event over four days, offering discounts and deals from July 1. Owner Melanie Press said: “I worked in New York for seven years - I know how important July 4 is. Plus a lot of Americans live in Primrose Hill.”

Pippa Sandison, owner of womenswear indie Boudoir Femme in Cambridge, gave an extra 10% off on the day.

“Independents’ Day fell two days after our Sale started so it happened at an ideal time,” she said.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), said it had not had time to canvass members’ reactions, but felt supporting the event had been “a worthwhile venture”.

Publicity around the appointment of Mary Portas to advise the Government on the future of the high street had diluted the impact of Independents’ Day, he said, adding: “Next year we’ll get a much longer lead time to prepare for it.”

Anne Seaman, chief executive of Skillsmart Retail, said: “Given it was the first time, it was very successful. We’ll be looking at where there were pockets of success and getting more people on board next year to get the needed momentum behind it with a more co-ordinated approach.”

According to Skillsmart, a quarter of the UK’s 291,000 independent retail businesses took part.

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