Industry insiders discuss their biggest achievements over the past 12 months and hopes for 2022

It’s been a difficult year for small businesses and many of us are looking forward to welcoming in 2022. While the pandemic and Brexit are creating problems for suppliers and stockists, the vaccine roll-out has enabled the economy to open up and the country to get back onto its feet. Here boutique owners, agents and brand owners reveal what they’ve achieved during this difficult period and their hopes and dreams for the year ahead…

Mandy Errington, owner, DJV Boutique

“This year has obviously been a torrid time for small businesses. However, we’ve successfully weathered the storm and become well adapted, facing challenges head on to sustain trade and rebuild our business. Introducing fresh ideas has also helped us to bounce back. We always had a robust online strategy and have enhanced this by introducing e-gift cards and virtual fashion shows. I was also named a #f:entrepreneur100 this year, which alongside other prestigious accolades and media coverage, has helped me maintain a positive outlook. We’ve introduced some menswear and accessories in time for Christmas to expand our in-store offer and always on the lookout for additional lines to keep our customers well engaged. Next year we celebrate a decade of trade and look forward to trading for many more years to come as individuals continue to embrace the ‘shop small’ pledge.”

Cathy Vandeputte, owner, Partners in Fashion

“Our biggest achievement this year is to have survived the covid crisis, health wise and financially. And we are also delighted to retain all of our loyal staff member. Next year we hope to get back to a normal order pattern for AW22 with more customers visiting our showroom and not doing so many virtual appointments, which are quite exhausting! We feel that indies will grow stronger as a result of recent lockdowns, with customers shopping locally and supporting small businesses – particularly with the return of holidays and social events.”

Joanna Edwards, founder, Joanna Edwards Agency

“After the success of SS22 we believe the positivity will roll over into AW22, our customers are keen to book London showroom appointments and especially our additional Manchester location, which is proving very popular. Our ever-evolving brands are producing inspiring collections that are selling extremely well. It’s an exciting chapter moving forward. Our hope is that with the support system our agency gives to all our retailers and the support from our brands we can share a great year ahead with our stockists. Despite the challenging times with not just the pandemic but also Brexit, I’m very proud of how my agency and brands have faced these challenges and constantly found solutions along the way. Our continued aim is to give our very valued retailers the support they deserve. It’s been a tough year and I think everyone deserves a pat on the back.”

Hari Krishnadasan, MD, Capri

“With 2022 just around the corner, we as a brand have put procedures into place in case there is a lockdown 3.0 – but we also are looking forward to a great year. UK businesses must prepare like another lockdown might happen. If it doesn’t, you were ready. It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it. Too many people are running their businesses like everything is going to be OK. But it actually might not be, and you could get very hurt. I bet many of us were stung in the first lockdown. Why would you want that to happen again? While many indies have enjoyed fantastic sales since Freedom Day and the data for next year is looking positive for both suppliers and stockists, covid is here to stay. The sooner we embrace the changes needed to survive and thrive in 2022 the better. I’m sure the whole supply chain will have a fantastic – and fun – year ahead.”

Sally Longden, owner, Stick and Ribbon

“I guess the highlight of 2021 has to be survival. All independent retailers should give themselves a big pat on the back for all their hard work.! It’s been a tough old slog. We were proud to represent Nottingham on re-opening day on BBC News, which turned out to be some great publicity for us. Another highlight has to be the overwhelming support from all our regular customers. These past 20 months have really shown us that we are more to them than just a clothes shop – we are part of the community. And to be able to put a smile on someone’s face means so much to us. Going forward into 2022, we are excited by the thought of putting on regular fashion shows and style events. We also plan to build on everything we’ve learned through some tough and difficult times!”

Sophi Pickard, owner, The White Room

“We are absolutely delighted to have just opened our second boutique. After several years of growing sales and continual growth of our customer base, this feels like a real achievement and one we’re very proud of. Like all small business owners, the pandemic has made us dig deep and work even harder to stay in business. During this time, we’ve changed to stay current and accessible during lockdowns. Now we are looking forward to a bright 2022 where we continue to support local and build our online offering. Hopefully small businesses can once again thrive and bring a vital presence to our communities.”

Donna Nichol, owner, Chloe James Lifestyle

“I feel very positive about business going forward and I’m hoping that Chloe James Lifestyle will go from strength to strength in 2022! I think a lot of people have recognised the important part that indies play – not only in the local economy, but in maintaining a sense of community and pride in where you live. I want to build on all that we’ve achieved this year and continue to grow the website business alongside that of the store. Our biggest achievement in 2021 was definitely our tenth birthday fashion show at St Albans cathedral. Our Christmas ad, which we’ve posted on our socials as a sort of John Lewis/ M&S spoof, has also been extremely popular with fantastic feedback.”

John Pearce, founder, John Pearce Fashion

“Indies have had a good time since things opened in March this year and are looking forward to even better business for 2022. For us, our biggest hit has been by basics and OWN, with promising results for new brand ANDAM too. The market is waking up. Record number of accounts opened. With by basics/OWN, our product and business model are spot on and our colour range is unmatched. Biggest achievement? One single unit indie having placed 23 orders with us in six months in 2021. Hopes and plans for 2022? The shows and stands are planned in February and we are looking forward to taking part. By no means a small part in the recognition of our brands by the market has been the campaign run in Boutique magazine since December 2020. So, thanks to you all!”

Victoria Rex-Lees, owner, The Women’s Society Boutique

“The last 18 months has given us time to reflect and assess our direction ensuring that we are bringing the right collections to our customers. We are super positive about 2022 with lots of events in the pipeline and an array of new brands to bring to our customers. Hello 2022!”