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Sarah Coggles berated for Grazia promotion

Designer independent Sarah Coggles has angered its market rivals after launching a 30%-off promotion across its website in women’s glossy magazine Grazia.

Premium indies including Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Newcastle upon Tyne-based Jules B and Emporio Clothing in Worcester, have lambasted Sarah Coggles owner Mark Bage for offering the discount on more than 200 brands – including Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Nicole Farhi – for two weeks until October 12.

The trio of indies baulked at the level of the discount, and the high-profile ad and cover line – Grazia sells about 228,700 copies a week. They claimed the promotion hit their bottom lines and reduced customer demand for new season autumn product.

“We had to break one of our own rules and it was a one-off. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that if any other indie was in my shoes and Grazia said ‘you can go on the front cover’, they wouldn’t have turned it down.”

Mark Bage, owner, Sarah Coggles

Indies generally do not discount outside of the traditional Sale periods during the year, but they have seen their market share eroded by recent heavy discounting by multiple department stores.

“I was horrified to see this from a reputable retailer,” said Rhona Blades, co-owner of Jules B, which sells brands including Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Twenty8Twelve. “It’s an approach that is bad for the industry and the repercussions have been phenomenal. Sarah Coggles has offended colleagues in the industry.”

Bage defended the move and Sarah Coggles’ reputation as a retailer with a strong track record where promotional activity is concerned. “We rarely do promotions and that hasn’t changed,” said Bage. “We had to break one of our own rules and it was a one-off. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that if any other indie was in my shoes and Grazia said ‘you can go on the front cover’, they wouldn’t have turned it down.”

Paula Jauncey, owner of Emporio Clothing in Worcester, which sells Paul Smith and Joseph, said: “It was cavalier and we are furious. Customers have started bargaining with us and the designer ethos then becomes market trader.”

It is understood that a number of brands involved in the promotion asked to be withdrawn from it following calls from angry stockists.

The boss of one brand involved said: “Part of me feels ‘good on him’, and the other part understands why people are irate as it’s not ideal to set a precedent. It’s a gamble unless you’re a massive department store and you can get away with it.”

Sunday Best owner Jan Shutt added: “There is a gentlemen’s agreement when it comes to RRP. It’s good to make a stand to address this.”

What do you think about’s discounting scheme? Post your comments in the box below.

Readers' comments (26)

  • Good on Sarah Coggles I say...I don't think they're alone in wanting to maximise revenue in the quiet months before Xmas...sounds like sour grapes to me!

    The industry is going through tough times at the moment - surely its time to be creative and do what's necessary to stay ahead of the competition. If indies just stand still and don't react to change - the repercussions will be obvious. There's not a lot of high street loyalty anymore, people will go where there are savings to be made! Simples

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  • discounts like this can be done by anybody but margins are essential,if companies like this and cruise do these gimicky discounts we would all have to follow,the quickest way to bankruptcy

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  • We all want to do well/better in a difficult climate, but this cuthroat attitude helps nobody. Customers see things like this and believe we can all afford to follow suit, they wonder why they should HAVE to pay full price when these type of discounts are offered. Great work Coggles, what comes around goes around.

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  • Jessica Good

    I can understand the upset, but I don't think Coggles customer would percive an advertorial in Grazia 'tacky' or 'gimmicky', because it's just not that kind of magazine.

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  • I think customers are becoming increasingly aware that some brands/designer goods are not worth the price tag so are unwilling to pay it and hold out for discount until the price is reasonable. In this industry, we know more than anyone that resisting change is impossible if you are to be successful, the quotes in this article seem to highlight a general consensus that Indies do not need to change.

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  • The problem comes from the brands themselves selling as many did and still do into the likes of Next, HOF, Debenhams, etc and letting them discount at will whilst holding indies over a barrel. Also more and more brands now have their own eccommece sites with massive advertising budgets to blow their own stockist out of the water. As an estashblised indie virtually all the brands we stock now go face to face with us and many seem to think its ok for their 'digital marketing team' to do whatever they want to get sales and by that I mean massively undercut their very own stockists.

    What brands need to do is stop being so greedy with the indies whilst letting the department stores dictate when and what they want as its the indies that generally break a brand into the market place and then the big boys jump on board and want the same item at half the price.

    Until the brands wake up and take notice this sort of discounting from indies will only increase and if its the case of Coggles or some designers website directly getting the sale then I'd rather Coggles get it.

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  • The best way to fight the challanges is to match your opponent.

    All the 'big boys' have and continue to embrace the latest technology and if we the indies want to take a cut of thier turnover we must do the same or at least come close. It's no good having a lovely deisgner shop in a nice village location and getting upset by this type of thing. The world wide web is at your fingertips and you must in this day and age be prepared to trade online. Keep up or be beaten!

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  • Also more and more brands now have their own eccommece sites with massive advertising budgets to blow their own stockist out of the water. As an estashblised indie virtually all the brands we stock now go face to face with us and many seem to think its ok for their 'digital marketing team' to do whatever they want to get sales and by that I mean massively undercut their very own stockists.

    ^^^ This is a perfect point! Brands wanting two slices of the pie are exacerbating the problems indies face massively. Its such bad practice that they become their stockists own competition, I am trying to avoid stocking brands in the future with their own ecommerce store. It will all end in tears when all the indies start going bump because of their greed and they will run out of stockists. Biting the hand that feeds them.

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  • Many directors of these big brands are only in the job for a few years during which time they want to increase sales. So they go out and will do whatever it takes to increase figures and cut costs. The best way for them to do this quickly is selling into the big stores/discounters as it looks good on the balance sheet and they get to choose their new company car from the next page & another gold star on their cv.

    Only thing is the big boys only ever buy the 'most commercial' pieces and don't want to take the risk that the indies do by trying the little bit different items from the collection. Carry on like this and the brands will have very few customers left all wanting just the bog standard plain jeans and 5 years later there'll be brand left.

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  • I have worked with Sarah Coggles as a distributre, On knowing them and their ethic's I believe Mark and his team to be totally loyal to the industry and would not do anything to upset anyone without a lot of thought going into any promotion. Grazia is a fab magazine, and perfect for the customer that would shop in Coggles. Why shouldn't a business person be able to develop sales for himself, but give something back to the loyal customer?
    Good on them I say.

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  • Hit the nail head on there fella!! however the Indie cant compete with the big discounting from the multiple!! sit tight and wait, this will only work if you differentiate your business and brands from the others. Trade is quiet for different reasons in different areas, but one is the Credit crunch, but there are other factors also. buying to much, being greedy, trying to be first with everything, does not allways work. But for Coggles to go on 30% at this time of year,somethings gone wrong somewhere!!

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  • I think Coggles' competitors should stop whinging and get on with it. Independent retailers in less "exalted" parts of the trade have had to deal with slashing discounts for years, often from bigger competitors whose gameplan has been to eliminate independent competition altogether (e.g. grocery, the sports trade, footwear).

    The issue for Bage is what will the brands he stocks think if this becomes a regular tactic - but he says it won't be and he deserves the benefit of the doubt for now.

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  • It is not something we could all do - the industry as a whole would have to sell double the quantity to achieve the same level of overall profit and that is most unlikely. Alternatively, half the independents could go out of business leaving the other half to pick up their sales. The internet makes this possible as far as online sales are concerned and that is no doubt one of the factors that Coggles considered. I suspect Coggles online business is greater than its physical store business and that is perhaps what's behind this. An online business discounting at 30% is perfectly feasible. It's whether the brands will go along with a few online businesses endangering the health of the larger number of bricks and mortar businesses. If cancelled orders from shops are taken up by etailers they don't have a problem.

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  • It's his business so he can do whatever he sees fit. The online part of retail is here to stay and will only improve.

    If he can take a 30% hit, then that's his decision. Why should he worry about other retailers and how it affects them?
    My teen daughter shops from all over the world, likewise so do her mates. It's how they shop and they are the future. They go up to the mall just to hang out....hardly ever to shop.

    There are many boutiquey, indie stores who no longer earn a living wage from their profits, but the online part of their businesses make it pay.
    The next bit to hurt is retail rents and rates...they cannot be supported by lower mark ups and turnover.

    The success of should wake up a few.....loved by teen daughter and mates. And who owns Boohoo?

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  • There will be a consolidation amongst etailers as they are not restricted by geographical spread - they can hoover up sales from all over the country using discounts to do it. It would make sense for someone to buy the online business of Coggles, then combine it with that of JulesB and so forth. It wouldn't make as much sense to combine their bricks and mortar operations.

    Eventually, a few big etailers could have terrific buying power over brands. It's likely however that they will start playing it safe as they will be forward ordering on a huge scale. So then they start getting boring and sales will drop off leaving an opening for newcomers.

    The rate of change will be determined by the brands. They have to balance new sales to etailers against the loss of sales to traditional stockists. The later they may try to make up for by going online themselves. However, they then have to make for stock and that is not something they seem keen on doing.

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  • I commneted already but just thought what the benefits were for a one off promo.

    Think of all those new web customers he got via the promo....and all those e-mail contacts to send 'secret' promos to in the future.

    It's a new way of retailing, a bit subversive...but smart anyone sitting back grumbling about mark ups may be toast in a few years time anyway.
    E-Tail may see mark ups go back to the olden days when it was perfectly profitable to mark up by X 2.3 and earn well after fixed costs. Many chains are marking up X 12 ex factory ......the Boohoos of the e-tail world may change this soon too.,


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  • The key problem in the market at present is consumer confidence. What we need is a ‘rising tide which will float all our boats’- having watched and felt the impact of the discounting retail from Victoria Square by HOF and Cruise over the past 18 months since the opening and a mentality of ‘dash for the cash’ and then the subsequent lull in trade referred to now as ‘the dead cat bounce’ what has been achieved?

    Stuart Rose at a recent conference organised by Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce clearly outlined that the speed of downturn and its depth had been a surprise to all retail. The recovery will be slow and will be by giving value to the consumer which is a relative equation of the shopping experience against the price paid and the use derived.
    Does the promotion by Sarah Coggles deliver long term relationship or is a short term solution?

    Time will tell.

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  • Of course this had to happen eventually in the 'designor end of the market' and all of the 'hand wringing' and 'foot stomping' from Coggles' perceived on-line rivals is quite funny.
    Yes; Sarah Coggles has received wonderful (short term) publicity and have probably introduced hundreds of new customers to their website, but was the 30% discount also offered to existing Coggles clients? If not why not? Surely in this day and age it's just as important to retain loyal customers as it is to gain 'one-offs'.
    My fear for Mark is that he has opened the floodgates and his on-line customers (or at least the newer ones) will expect these discounts or gimmicks all of the time or they will move on to someone even cheaper; only leaving him with disgruntled ' (regular) customers.
    The interweb is a marvelous tool for retailers but games like this are very very dangerous!

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  • Another problem is that suppliers are just looking short term and not really focusing on the longtivity of the brand. Many brands including some long standing firms risk loosing everything if they continue down this path of greed.
    For instance are Diesel amongst others really keeping up their premium standards now that Shop Direct have taken over the Woolworths onlne business and openly selling it (heavily discounted) on what is seen as a bargain basement retailer.

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  • I think we're going slightly off topic here; but is the Diesel product on this site actually being bought directly from Diesel themselves or through a third party?
    In my experience the brands that Sarah Coggles sell all have 'long term strategys' and wether you like it or not fairly rigid distribution paths. In their home city Coggles will have exclusivity on the majority of labels; it is only on the interweb where they will find like for like competition - hence the furore over the 30% discount.

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