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Editor's Comment: What we can learn from innovative indies

Keely Stocker

Independent retailing is one of the fashion industry’s toughest sectors, but also one of the most innovative – and larger retailers would do well to take note of the initiatives the sector is driving.

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This week we look at some of these innovators as we celebrate the winners of the Drapers Independents Awards – businesses that have continued to thrive through challenging market conditions.

A fantastic example of this is this year’s Lifetime Achievement winners, Julian and Rhona Blades, who have persevered through three decades of high and lows to be market leaders today.

Many lessons can be learnt from those leading the independent sector. Successful independents offer a combination of a unique product mix and a clear understanding of their customer. They cultivate their own style, and combine brands to form a unique buy and give their customers a point of difference.

The best independents truly understand who their customer is and how to engage them, always keeping them in mind when buying.

The awards also celebrate the brands that are key to any independent offer. The best brands have a clear independent strategy, and a curated stockist list to fit their ambitions. Brands continue to innovate to increase their appeal, adding new collections to align with current trends, such as gender-neutral and sustainable offerings.

Julian and Rhona Blades of Jules B

Julian and Rhona Blades of Jules B

Independents are also excelling in other areas. Long before “experiential retail” became a buzzword in the fashion industry, indies were implementing highly individualised store fits and initiatives, such as running clubs and local events, to drive footfall into their stores.

Becoming part of the local community is also key. Those that work in independents know their regular customers by name, and provide a level of service that larger retailers struggle to replicate at scale, giving a personal experience to each and every shopper.

Building a community is core to any independent and this has now transferred to digital channels via social media, where successful indies create an online personality to increase their reach.

The winners of this year’s Drapers Independents Awards highlight the very best of the best in this sector and show how a unique product offer alongside a clear customer engagement and retention strategy can keep customers coming back for more. Congratulations to all of our winners.




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