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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It is understood that a number of brands involved in the promotion asked to be withdrawn from it following calls from angry stockists.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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  • Whatever sector of retail we are in, the reaction seen here is so typical of that introversion only seen in Britain. Anyone of any standing in the business knows this campaign has been a great success and any comment from a person about detrimental impact on their business is actually living in 1973. This is life as we know it now; its tough for the indies to make their mark, stay ahead and alive, and a mature business such as this that has true passion and sets a great benchmark and creatively inspires has to take its chances and cease opportunties.Any business that is bricks and no clicks is over in the next 24 months, a fact so many cannot face , and still 6 years on, cant see the light Myself; 30% off my shopping at Ocada last week; 30% off my shopping at Tesco the week before and 35-40% of all my weekly book shopping at Amazon . How small and insignificant the protestors and competitors may feel, its not a time to be disingenious; its time to move forwards.

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  • bearing in mind the close relationship the store Sunday Best has with Drapers (the owner writes a column), I find it highly inappropriate and unprofessional that the editor should accuse Coggles of being "hugely irresponsible" in her editors letter. Who is she to accuse them of being irresponsible?? does she accuse M&S of being irresponsible when they discount early? no, because Drapers is so obsessed with the M&S share price and Stuart Rose that there behavious passes without judgement. Just because a couple of stores have turned a one-off mag promotion discount into sour grapes, it doesn't mean Drapers should report this non-story and especially not in such personal terms. A quick seach of finds no mention of grazia magazine so the promotion was aimed squarely at the readership only, not a widely available discount code. Good on Coggles for promoting online shopping for fresh designerwear to a wider audience (beyond the usual ASOS) which everyone should benefit from in the long run.

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  • With the utmost respect to the Dreapers team, I do notice that they don;t dare to report on certain topical issues and could be seen to be a teeny tiny bit sychophantic at times.....but the ads pay the wages so, unless a trade mag can exist ad free, then the content isn't ever going to upset the advertisors or the P/T 'journalists' who work in the industry, who write in it.

    That is why I think Coggles was brave and just did what he did for his own benefit during a difficult trading period. He knew he would get flack and, maybe, some from the big brands but still did what he thought was best for his business. Good for him.

    The Times has written about Mr K Stanford, Landsbanki et al and Bauger yet Drapers hasn't mentioned him for months....not a sausage yet he was a very big player in retail during the past decade.

    IF (and I emphasise IF) The Sunday best proprieter is a bit miffed by it, then she has 2 ways to go. Stay as she is or try beat them at their own game...and do her own web promo....but bigger and better.

    Retailing is changing massively, really quickly. I think us 30+'s are used to change and can adapt but not to it happening so quickly. I will confess to it catching me out a couple of years back.

    The comm landlords were well wrong footed as their values dropped 40% in 18 months despite all the cloaking and tricks. Unheard of as drops like that take years usually.

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  • I would be very careful if I were a brand demanding to be taken out of the promotion!!! Are they trying to influence the RRP that Sarah Coggles are going to market with.......

    The comment;
    “There is a gentlemen’s agreement when it comes to RRP. It’s good to make a stand to address this.” incredible......

    They would do well to look at the sports industry and the price fixing / restriction of trade issues.

    Too often I am still hearing of these price conversations taking place and this will keep occurring until there is a high profile casualty. The office of fair trading made an example of the Sports Multiples and brands. This could well happen in the fashion industry. We have been warned......

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  • re: 'They would do well to look at the sports industry and the price fixing / restriction of trade issues.'
    There is a lot more to this statement than meets the eye and the fashion industry could take heed from it.
    The Sports retail trade is now dominated by only 4-5 national companies? How many towns/cities have independent sports shops in 2009?
    All of whom are 'guilty' of driving prices down to the lowest common denominater then 'allegedly agreeing prices' for Man Utd and England replica football tops.
    My fear for the fashion industry is that we too fall into the trap of constantly 'being in sale' and consummers go hunting for label products that are constantly discounted.
    Again I agree with the person that talks about retailers needing to have 'clicks as well as bricks'...but in my humble opinion we can't have 'clicks' without 'bricks'. Shops have much greater overheads than e-tail business which is why astute manufacturers 'advise' on RRP's for website - thus ensuring the longevity of not only their brands but our bloody industry too!

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  • RE Grazia maybe S Coggles needed the money to pay there suppliers

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