Independent lingerie retailers in the UK are facing an uncertain future following a wave of price hikes from suppliers in the wake of the falling pound.
In a discussion with Lingerie Insight last night, several shop owners voiced their concerns over the impact of increased costs on their margins or sales.
Kirsty McAspurn, founder of Curvature Boutique in Leigh, said: “Suppliers are definitely putting prices up, some of them quite dramatically. This then has to be passed on to customers or absorbed. Unfortunately the lingerie world has such small margins, absorbing costs can be damaging to the retailer.”
Another retailer, Rebecca Barnett, opened Frillies boutique in Sheffield just three months ago. She’s concerned the price hikes could scare her new customers away.
“I’ve just received some new stock and the price has definitely increased. I then checked the new price list for my continuity stock and that has gone up too, by quite a bit in my mind. So I’m worried as a new lingerie retailer,” she said.
“Margins are definitely small, but increased costs from the supplier, along with a potentially worried consumer market, isn’t the best of combinations.”
Lingerie retailers expressed their fears after the pound hit its lowest level since October’s crash yesterday.
The UK currency fell by 1.6% to $1.1986 against the dollar after it was reported that the Prime Minister will today announce plans to exit the EU’s single market to regain control of Britain’s borders and laws.
Claire Woodall, owner of Lincoln Bra Lady, said the impact of price hikes on her mid-range products is her biggest concern.
“My low-end goods, which have increased in price by a few pounds here and there, won’t have such an impact. The high-end goods are already out of reach for many and this puts them further out of reach, but I think the ladies already buying them will continue to buy them,” she said.
“It’s the mid-range I worry about the most. Panache has added £2 to Tango, keeping under £30, so no panic just yet. However, some products from Anita are moving from £48 to over £50. Whilst the bras are brilliant functionally-wise and the quality is super, I will struggle with some price points.”
“I’ve just received some new stock and the price has definitely increased. I then checked the new price list for my continuity stock and that has gone up too, by quite a bit in my mind. So I’m worried as a new lingerie retailer.” – Rebecca Barnett.
Claudia May, the founder of her namesake online boutique based in Bath, said Brexit was the main reason she chose not to stock mid-range products.
“As a new business, Brexit and the competitive price points across department stores such as Debenhams and online shops such as Figleaves made it too risky for a start-up,” she explained.
“I decided to base myself high-end, with Chantelle products being my lowest price for sets, apart from the Bare collection.”
Sheila Wilson, owner of Sugar and Spice in the Isle of Wight, said she is expecting some price increases in her AW17 lines, but is holding steady at the moment.
“We have products at a range of price points so we should have something for most budgets. We have the experience of the recession a few years ago and I expect our customers’ shopping habits to mirror that. We found customers were loyal to brands they were familiar with – Fantasie was a must for us,” she said.
Going forward, Wilson said she will stick to her existing brands and not risk buying anything new.
“Margins will be important, so I won’t take kindly to any brands that increase the price to us without an increase in the RRP,” she warned.
“To be honest, I am more worried about increasing overheads – business rates, utilities and workplace pensions.”
Michele Poynter, owner of Cornwall-based Mish and Mish Online said she has experienced both the negative and positive impacts of the falling pound.
“For me it’s very much a two-sided coin. For the last six months we’ve seen an increase in international sales but a decrease in UK sales,” she said.
“Going forward, the biggest challenge will be the lines we buy directly from the US and EU countries, which this year will be significantly more expensive. How much of that can be passed onto the customer remains to be seen, so it will either affect margin or sales.”