debenhams

A Pandemic & The Changing Face of Retail

Hartwell Clothing Retail

A Pandemic and The Changing Face of Retail
What does it mean for Countrywear?

The economic carnage triggered by the pandemic this last 12 months has been felt across all industry sectors. And undoubtedly retail is right up there with some of the worst hit victims.

Ironically, the slow decline of the high street had already been very much in evidence well before anyone had heard of Covid-19. But the arrival of the virus has supercharged this gradual decline into what has felt like a tsunami of disappearing household names. Causing not just a huge loss of jobs but creating physical and emotional gaps on our high streets and in the minds of millions, who have seen so many cherished and trusted brands vanish altogether.

TM LEWIN
TM LEWIN, ONE OF THE MANY FASHION RETAIL VICTIMS

The roll call of collapsed retailers is quite staggering:- Mothercare, Beales, Carphone Warehouse, Virgin Media, Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley, TM Lewin, Oasis, Oliver Sweeney, Warehouse, Evans, Debenhams and Arcadia’s stable of flagship retail brands too.

So while many will understandably mourn their passing (and yes, of course many have pointed the finger at those that simply didn’t move with the changing times and tastes of their customers), it begs a number of questions I’d like to touch on during these tumultuous times:-

  1. What does all of this mean for smaller businesses in retail?
  2. What does the future look like for a countrywear sector served by a large number of smaller independent retailers and brands like Hartwell?

Small is Beautiful
Firstly, I believe now more than ever before, small is beautiful! Smaller independent businesses, while struggling like everyone else, are better placed to navigate the choppy waters of the pandemic and the subsequent recession we will face as the world tries to emerge from this unprecedented event.

With lower overheads, fewer staff on the payroll and the ability to be nimble, fleet-of-foot and agile in adapting to the challenges they face, small retailers can and will adapt their online and offline offerings to deliver what their customers want. There’s no other option – they simply have to.

Many online players have taken full advantage of the many lockdowns, and well done to them! Nevertheless, I believe consumers will still want to experience real face to face retail therapy when it is safe to do so once again. There will be gaps in major town/city high streets which will take some time to fill. However, the increasing trend towards shopping local and seeking the friendly and superior customer service found at small independents make the future look distinctly more positive for them.

In the world of country clothing, towns up and down the nation are served by such retailers. Again they have had to move to improve their online proposition to those who choose to shop from home, however it is the special art of retailing that marks this group of retail brands apart.

Countrywear Retailers
We’re fortunate to supply some truly wonderful and innovative businesses that are well placed to grow once again, after the restrictions lift. Many have traded for generations and it is their tried and tested offering of intimate service as family-run companies that makes me confident they’ll still be serving their communities for many more years to come.

Retailers like Parnaby’ in Malton, North Yorkshire, Landmark in Broadway, Cotswolds, Wadswick Country Store in Wiltshire, All About Countrywear in Berwick and Gun Hill Clothing in Norfolk are just a small group of fantastic countrywear businesses that I believe may actually benefit from the Big Retail casualties mentioned at the start of this post.

Let’s hope this year is a better one for the whole sector, especially for all of the smaller independents.
Welcome to The Age of The Small!
Let us know your own thoughts – we’d love to hear from you.

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