Independent retailers reported a bumper Christmas trading period as their careful buying paid off and the cold snap drove strong sales of knitwear.
Indies said sales had surpassed expectations across all categories with average increases well into double digits - there was a 20% hike at young fashion indie Monty Smith in Cheltenham, a 15% rise at premium womenswear indie Austique in Chelsea, west London, and a 30% rise at menswear indie Jazz Clothing in Grimsby.
Mark Bage, owner of premium indie Sarah Coggles in York, said: “We were up about 18% on last year. I think it was partly because Christmas [Day] came late in the week so there was a full week of spending, plus a lot of the stores went on Sale later this year.”
The cold weather meant outerwear and knitwear flew off the shelves in late December following slow sales earlier in the season.
Austique owner Katie Canvin said: “It picked up when the weather went cold. We sold a lot more cashmere in the 10 days before Christmas than we expected to.”
Footwear was particularly strong at Exclusive Footwear in York, up 40% year on year during December, driven by phenomenal sales of boots and wellies.
Jazz Clothing partner Alfie Hope said: “Footwear did well across all styles and brands. Even pieces I wasn’t sure would sell in this weather, such as Converse boots, sold out.”
However, indies’ margins were slightly down on last year but this was driven by the ongoing currency issues, where indies have opted to hold prices to remain competitive, rather than by discounting. In fact, most indies said they had discounted at a lower level than last year.
Charlotte Wilkie, co-owner of kidswear indie Charlie Barley in Brighton, said: “In 2008 we went straight into Sale at 40% after Christmas but this year we started at 20% and took it 40% on January 5.”
Pamela Shiffer, owner of the eponymous two-store London womenswear indie, which saw sales rise 20% over Christmas, said: “We normally start at a 30% discount but have varied it this year with most items discounted at a lower level, but that hasn’t put customers off.”
The strong trading period has put many retailers in a positive mood although many said they would continue to buy cautiously and plough budget into short-order labels to minimise risk.