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Indies hold out as summer Sales kick off

As department stores launch price-slashing early summer Sales, smaller independents have vowed to hold out until mid-July.

Harrods, Liberty, Selfridges, Debenhams and House of Fraser are among retailers that kicked off their Sales last week, offering discounts of up to 70% on clothes. Premium indies Matches and Coggles have succumbed to summer Sale fever, leaving only the smaller independents to stand their ground until later in the season.

Karl Wood, founder of Evesham-based indie Pride Menswear, said: “The big boys go first, the bigger indies follow and drag everyone else into it and that is the way it goes nowadays.”

Wood called for brands to take a stand on prices, with the aim of protecting their smaller stockists and preserving their brand values. “If they were to say to people, ‘we don’t want you to put this product on sale until this date’, that would eliminate a lot of the problems.”

Ian Hopkins, co-founder of young fashion indie Pulp is holding out - as usual - until mid-July, “when the kids break up because we sell to a younger customer.” He said: “Some other stores have been doing summer sales with 50% to 70% off, but that just devalues their brands in the long term. Instead, we’ve been running offers throughout the year, doing three-for-twos and giving away free wristbands with purchases. That makes a massive difference.”

Wood complains that the poor summer weather had led to low sales on summer clothing, particularly on shorts and t-shirts. It is currently offering a free pair of Havaianas flip-flops with the purchase of two pairs of shorts. “People have this false conception of when the summer season actually is – we should all be going on sale much later, and stocking summer gear later than we do, as people are still going on holiday in August. They don’t want autumn clothing until autumn.”

Contemporary womenswear indie The Dressing Room in St Albans cited customer service as a motivation for sticking to its usual sale launch date in July. “We think it is important to keep the same dates for reliability – a lot of our customers are very loyal and we want to give them the impression that going on sale at the same time we always do is right for us,” said a spokeswoman for the retailer.

Meanwhile, department stores reported that their sales are going well.  A Liberty spokeswoman said, “the sale started on the 14th June and is going great”, while Selfridges claimed their sale is “going phenomenally well”.

Readers' comments (4)

  • I couldnt agree more with Ian Hopkins, Summer starts June 21, the sales should start end July. Full price Summer seasons have become shorter and shorter in the last few years. Remember the whole industry being up in arms when Top Notch started the trend with a June sale back in the early 1990'S. .

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  • Good for the Indies!!!!!!! Of course, Liberty and Selfridges would say that their sales are "going great" and "going phenomenally well" - who does'nt like a bargin!! But, as it is the indies that "make the difference" on the high street, it is great to see so many resisting the temptation to capitualte to the lemming principle!! Of course, a time will come when all indies will go on sale but to decimate margins in early June seems to be a sure way to having a distasteous Spring/Summer retail season.
    Glynn Alwyn-Jones.

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  • Wether you can resist following the early sale trend depends very much on your location and the proximity of competitors or multiples, especially if you are carrying the same brands. It is extremely annoying though, selling merchandise at discounted prices before summer & the holidays have even begun particularly when men habitually shop last minute.

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  • darren hoggett

    We don't have summer sales because it isn't what our customers want and as a result when others are on Sale, are takings tend to go up, not down. Sales can be counter productive and can attract the wrong type of consumer to your store and it is arguably better to verbally offer your existing customers deals and incentives instead - this does not devalue your store in the way going on Sale can. A whole town or city on sale can look like one big bargain bin and that isn't for everybody, so I'd say to other Indies think twice about going on Sale unnecessarily.

    If going on Sale works for you then great, but if it doesn't - leave it. You may be surprised...

    Darren Hoggett
    J&B Menswear Limited/Norwich

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