Irish independents have reported sluggish footfall over the summer months as one of the longest spells of fine weather recorded since 1976 led shoppers to shun the high street.
There was no growth in total sales values for fashion, footwear and textiles in the first six months of 2018 in Ireland, Retail Ireland reported, while total sales volumes posted growth of 2.5% during the same period. The retail body said this was “well below the wider industry average”, as shoppers chose to sit in the park or visit the beach rather than head for the shops.
Independent retailers Drapers spoke to verified these findings, and were changing their buying patterns to mitigate the effects.
“Footfall has dropped off the face of the earth,” said Anne Donaldson, owner of Belfast boutique Please Don’t Tell. “We’ve had autumn deliveries early, but people have changed their buying habits: they are less interested in suede jackets or cashmere coats at the moment [as it is still too warm]. Our regular customers usually do buy early.”
She added that she is likely to carry out more in-season buying: “People constantly want something new. If they see it all at once, they think, ‘I’ve seen that,’ and then they walk out. I have tried to have small drops with something coming in every couple of weeks to keep people interested.”
Christine Denning of Dublin-based streetwear boutique Nowhere said small and more frequent drops have helped business: “We have small drops all the time – we had 26 new pieces this month. We are doing season-long drops for everything and that is keeping things fresh. Everyone gets over-excited by a few sunny days, so we’ve seen a shortage of shorts, but across all collections items are selling, with some stock selling as quickly as it comes in.”
Tracy Tucker, co-founder of Dublin’s Costume Boutique, said footfall had dropped overall but sales themselves had held steady: “It seems physically very quiet, but we are holding our own. The people who are shopping want something.”
She added that having the option to swap stock has added more flexibility into her buying and helped her to focus on ranges that sell well: “Some labels have allowed us to swap stock to keep things fresh. The result is that at the end of the season the sell-through is much better. It’s given us confidence to allocate more budget to collections”.
Sales at vintage and Irish design boutique Om Diva also held steady throughout the summer, helped by tourist trade, said owner Ruth Ni Loinsigh: “There was a lot of positivity at the beginning of the summer. Irish design has been popular with American tourists. The designers are fresh and affordable, and seem to appeal to [that market].”
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