Christmas wishes: this is what industry insiders are hoping for in 2023

It’s been a year full of ups and downs for the industry as indies and brands battle economic uncertainly, rising costs and a big dip in consumer confidence. But cast your mind back to this time last year and it was an entirely different story. This is the first Christmas we’ve been able to look forward to in years without the looming threat of covid restrictions. The past 12 months have seen normality resume, and with it the return of physical trade shows, industry celebrations and in-person interactions with shoppers. Here boutique owners, agents and brand owners reveal their biggest achievements and toughest challenges from the past year as well as their hopes for 2023…

Penny Callaghan, founder, Colmers Hill Fashion Boutique and From My Mother’s Garden

“Winning British Brand of the Year at the Boutique Star Awards for From My Mother’s Garden this year has meant so much to me and my team. As a small business and relatively new brand, it backs up our self-belief in the label and it is such a proud achievement. The most challenging aspect of 2022 has been the difficult trading conditions we have all faced and the constant negative headlines which takes its toll on retail and customer confidence. As a boutique owner, I am only too aware of this. This autumn has been particularly hard for all retailers, and I do feel the national broadcast and print media has a lot to answer for. In 2023 I’m hoping to open a From My Mother’s Garden HQ in Dorset where I can champion our wholesale operation and also offer a showroom for anyone who’d like to see the range in its entirety. We are looking to increase the numbers of stockists as I have so many enquiries on a daily basis from shoppers looking for stockists in their local areas.”

Lisa Speet, director, Carol C Collections

“The best thing about 2023 has been seeing the industry return to what we know as ‘normal.’ It’s been a record year of trading and something we did not necessarily expect, so that’s been great to see. The biggest challenge we’ve faced as a distributor has been getting goods in on time because of shipping issues. We managed to achieve this, primarily with the help of our brands and with extra costs to all of us. We hope this becomes less challenging in 2023. In the new year I hope we can continue the success of 2022 but with less negative influences on trading that impact on our industry. Here’s to a successful 2023 for us all!”

Jai Parbat, founder, Cuckoo boutique

“There have been so many blessings this year. We’ve taken on new employees who have enhanced our customer experience further with their warmth, styling inspiration and high-level service skills. The support and wonderful feedback of our incredible customers right through to the love and understanding of my family has also been brilliant. We are fortunate to be a really busy little shop, but that involves a heavy amount of rotation due to the size of our stock room. There have been quite a few (very) late nights involved organising the inventory to ensure staff can comfortably locate what they need – and this has been challenging. As a relatively new business I’m also still trying to understand the balance between how much we can stock versus what our customers need. In 2023 I hope to remain optimistic and sustain a healthy business whatever may lie ahead. My main aim will be continuing to offer customers the same level of service and style they’ve experienced from us from the very beginning.”  

Mandy Errington, owner, DJV Boutique

“This year we celebrated 10 years of business and we continue to thrive and remain agile as we pursue our dynamic retail proposition. Some of our 2022 highlights have been exciting as well as memorable. We’ve enjoyed all of industry nominations we’ve received, including making it as finalist in the Boutique Star Awards Womenswear Independent of the Year category. It’s been a great year for recognition, which puts us in good stead to start 2023 on a positive note. Needless to say, there’s been numerous aspects which have had an adverse effect on trade. The downturn in consumer confidence has meant that we’ve had to work extra hard to maintain fair prices and keep our customers on board with us. We’ve also introduced numerous bespoke retail services to bolster our bottom line such as our style revamp packages. In 2023 I hope the business will continue to be successful and we plan to expand into more areas such as ethical beauty. We’re also looking to extend our current offer and work with more local designers and brands. Forging partnerships is a great way to strengthen business.”

Juls Dawson, founder, Just Around the Corner (JATC)

“We launched our first Manchester event in January this year with great success and it has been really satisfying filling a gap for a B2B event in the city. Watching the zones and visitor numbers grow at both JATC editions has also been really exciting and an accolade to all involved. The drop in consumer confidence in the past couple of months as we enter this recession has impacted all involved our industry, but I believe that’s all the more reason for buyers and brands to visit and participate in shows. We all need to seek out new partners drive new business. There are always opportunities to be had in tougher times and those who have their finger on the pulse can make good of these as they arise, which is what we intend to do!”

Sally Dawes, founder, Sally Dawes Agency

“Our biggest achievement this year has been exceeding our expectations for sales growth and expanding our customer base, despite the market challenges of the last 12 months. However, 2022 has thrown up multiple challenges and continues to do so as we head towards the new year. Sally Dawes Agency has worked hard with our brands to create must-have collections, which work hard for our loyal consumers.  Timely deliveries, a consistent and strong aftersales service and favourable payment terms are all areas we have worked hard to deliver in 2022, in order to support our customers. In 2023 we hope to rise to the latest market challenges in the same way as we did through covid. We aim to be versatile, nimble and reactive in order to best serve our customers. We also aim to discover new exciting brands to bring to our customers next year.”

Alison Townshend, founder, Sassy and Boo and Luella

“The best thing that happened this year was winning a Boutique Star Award in November. Our retail group Sassy and Boo was named Creative VM Independent of the Year 2022 while our womenswear brand Luella was highly commended in the British Brand of the Year category. The most challenging aspect of this year has been the difficulty we’ve faced in sourcing yarns and fabrics for Luella while maintaining the same prices. Moving forward into 2023 our hopes and aims are to continue our commitment to great customer service and produce even stronger collections for our customers.”

Maddie Ashbrook, founder, Moo and Boom

We have had a wonderful year trading! Firstly, we won Start Up Business 2022 with the FSB for our region, which blew us away. Then came the wonderful news that we’d won the Boutique Star Award for New Independent Business 2022. We are delighted that our new fledgling business has been recognised and appreciated by some very prolific judges. The most challenging part of this year has been business rates and increased electricity charges. As our store is quite big, we have rates to pay and a large building to heat; programming these increasing costs into the financials has been a challenge. Despite this I’m excited for 2023. I have another store opening and lots of ideas to mix up the high street with sustainable living. I will invest in my staff and giving a great customer experience while I’m aiming to focus more on our website.”

Sarah Simonds, owner, Artichoke

“The best thing that happened for the business this year was seeing our jeans featured by Mark Heyes on the Lorraine show for the fourth time. But this year has been a juggling act. Our online business grew exponentially during lockdown and I wanted to maintain this growth as we came out of the pandemic while also ensuring that bricks and mortar continued to thrive. Touch wood we have managed both, but it has meant that I have had to continue to pull in favours from family, friends, staff members and suppliers as well as working seven days a week to (almost) keep on top of things. My aim is to get the systems that we have been talking about forever finally in place in 2023, which will make all our lives easier. My hope remains, as it has for well over a decade now, that political and financial stability returns to the UK with increased prosperity for all. I think the nation is exhausted by the constant turmoil of the past few years. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that 2023 is the year that my wish will come true.”

Donna Nichol, owner, Chloe James Lifestyle

“We’ve had a lot of fun in the store, but the best thing that has happened this year was winning a Boutique Star Award for Social Media Strategy of the Year! It was so lovely to celebrate in style with all the other fabulous finalists and winners, and to feel recognised for all the effort we put in to making our social media platforms fun, informative and entertaining. But there has also been quite a lot to deal with this year, which we really weren’t expecting. Having come out of covid we were full of excitement and enthusiasm, feeling that bricks-and-mortar retail was very much on the up again. Then there was the war in Ukraine, energy crisis, recession and higher cost prices on just about everything. The biggest challenge has been trying to maintain prices to our customers as much as possible. Survival is the main aim for 2023! I’m hoping things will settle down and people will continue to want to shop small and keep their high streets alive. We have a very loyal customer base and we value every single one of them. I’ve got some plans for our website and would like to see more orders nationwide, getting the Chloe James Lifestyle brand out to a wider audience.”