OPINION: Sweetling on Portas’ ‘skewed’ figures

Sweetling co-founder Maria Law explains why Mary Portas’ Bottom Line has skewed fashion retail margins.

Sweetling featured alongside a Mary Portas interview in the current Radio Times to open up the debate on ‘skewing’ fashion retail margins and the problems this causes for established UK brands.

As one of many lingerie designers who are part of the ‘Make it British’ campaign, we found it really difficult to agree with Mary’s skewed figures on the production of Kinky Knickers in the UK- without knocking her passion to promote British manufacturing, we feel the need to break the unspoken rule of discussing retail shop margins and add-ons which I am afraid cripple most new British designers.

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There is absolutely no point Mary making out that we can compete with ‘pile em high, sell ’em cheap’ business models which always include a very tight retail margin. Mary intimating that it can be done is harmful to UK Lingerie brands.

A British retailer might give a new brand shelf space with an initial workable margin but unless the product ‘flies of the shelf’ in the first 10 days they will aggressively push for much better margins on any subsequent order, which usually means a lower retail price point so that products achieve unrealistic sell-through rates (a linear metre measurement is used to set buyers’ targets).

Subsequently, a much lower wholesale price is requested from the designer, meaning you have to go back to your manufacturer and squeeze hard – not a reality, as to make a quality garment using British paid skilled machinists (living wage, not just minimum wage) there is a always a ‘stop price’. If you are not careful, you could potentially end up paying to be in the store, therefore filling retail shelf space for free.

Maria Law is the latest of several industry members to join the debate, with Kiss Me Deadly’s Catherine Clavering, Who Made Your Pants?’s Becky John, Ayten Gasson and Frantic About Frances having also recently aired their views on Mary Portas’ new venture.

Click here to view pictures of the launch at Liberty.

Click here to read an excerpt of Mary Portas’ speech.

Find out more about Mary Portas’ venture and read further industry comment on the new project in the current issue of Lingerie Insight. 

Check out next month’s magazine for exclusive insight on the reality of manufacturing textiles in the UK, featuring interviews with the makers behind the Kinky Knicker’s brand.




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