Premium indies including Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Newcastle upon Tyne-based Jules B and Emporio Clothing in Worcester, have lambasted Sarah Coggles owner Mark Bage for offering the discount on more than 200 brands – including Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Nicole Farhi – for two weeks until October 12.
The trio of indies baulked at the level of the discount, and the high-profile ad and cover line – Grazia sells about 228,700 copies a week. They claimed the promotion hit their bottom lines and reduced customer demand for new season autumn product.
Indies generally do not discount outside of the traditional Sale periods during the year, but they have seen their market share eroded by recent heavy discounting by multiple department stores.
“I was horrified to see this from a reputable retailer,” said Rhona Blades, co-owner of Jules B, which sells brands including Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Twenty8Twelve. “It’s an approach that is bad for the industry and the repercussions have been phenomenal. Sarah Coggles has offended colleagues in the industry.”
Bage defended the move and Sarah Coggles’ reputation as a retailer with a strong track record where promotional activity is concerned. “We rarely do promotions and that hasn’t changed,” said Bage. “We had to break one of our own rules and it was a one-off. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that if any other indie was in my shoes and Grazia said ‘you can go on the front cover’, they wouldn’t have turned it down.”
Paula Jauncey, owner of Emporio Clothing in Worcester, which sells Paul Smith and Joseph, said: “It was cavalier and we are furious. Customers have started bargaining with us and the designer ethos then becomes market trader.”
It is understood that a number of brands involved in the promotion asked to be withdrawn from it following calls from angry stockists.
The boss of one brand involved said: “Part of me feels ‘good on him’, and the other part understands why people are irate as it’s not ideal to set a precedent. It’s a gamble unless you’re a massive department store and you can get away with it.”
Sunday Best owner Jan Shutt added: “There is a gentlemen’s agreement when it comes to RRP. It’s good to make a stand to address this.”
Oh dear. Yes, this practise is unethical but on the plus side, discounted designer clothes anyone?