Independent retailers are optimistic about trade in the run-up to Christmas and have vowed not to hoist the Sale signs despite a wave of discounting on the high street.
Major retailers such as Next and John Lewis warned last month that September’s mild weather had dented sales of autumn stock, while many chains responded to the lack of demand for big-ticket items such as outerwear and boots by going on Sale. Nevertheless, independents said they felt confident.
Kate Payne, co-owner of contemporary womenswear store Hengelo in Haslemere, Surrey, said: “Trade in September was really good and we’re up on last year. We’ve got winter stock out and it’s been selling well with customers picking up jackets, tweed coats, Hudson boots and tartan pieces.
With the economy better, our website is getting more traction and, as we’ve been established for three years, I’m more optimistic than I was a year ago.”
Neil Raven, managing director of department store Ravens in Southend, Essex, said trade in September had been difficult, with clothing and footwear sales down about 3%. However, he said he was feeling upbeat after the colder weather kicked in last weekend, leading to strong trade on both days.
“People are starting to look for winter clothing. If the weather holds out like this then we should be good for the rest of the year,” he said.
Lewis Tweddell, owner of premium retailer Lewis Yates in Billericay, Essex, said the store postponed bringing in all of its new season stock until October 2. “We’ve been really busy and have had a good reaction to outerwear. Trade is slightly up on last year,” he added.
Tony Links, buying manager at Glasgow-based men’s chain Slaters, said the 23-store business had a strong September with trade up on last year, which he put down to offering product with a point of difference, such as jackets with frills and coloured soles on shoes. “The only difficulty we had was with selling outerwear, but we made up for it with suits and jackets. We’re looking forward to a strong end of year – I’m feeling very positive.”
Bernard Dreesmann, executive chairman of Morleys Stores, which has seven department stores mainly in Greater London, described September as a “tough month”. He said the cold weather since Sunday had helped, but only to an extent. “We need it to turn,” he said. “I’m praying for cold weather.”
Despite heavy discounting on the high street, most independents said they will resist the urge to follow suit. Raven said: “We might do a promotion on coats but we’re looking to hold out [on going on Sale] a bit longer.”
Dreesmann echoed this: “We’re going to hold off as long as we can. We may have to have a markdown at some point, but I’m still quite optimistic for the rest of the year.”