Retro fashion chain Cath Kidston has started axing retailers amid fears the brand is becoming “overexposed”.
The middle class favourite has become one of the biggest success stories of the recession, with sales of £89million last year and a network of 85 stores worldwide.
Cath Kidston products are also sold through a network of 150 independent retailers who have fuelled the rapid expansion of the brand over the last five years.
But the chain is now withdrawing trading arrangements with independents to prevent the chain’s polka-dot and floral products becoming too familiar.
Shop owner Chantelle Vinnell is furious after the chain suddenly refused to supply her shop in Street, Somerset, with any more merchandise.
She has sold more than £116,000 worth of Cath Kidston products and has given 40 per cent of her retail space to the brand.
“We had to jump through all sorts of hoops to be allowed to sell their stuff, so we feel we’ve been treated really badly,” she said.
“Particularly as they just will not tell us exactly would not tell us why they would no longer supply us.”
Chantelle had to send dozens of letters and emails, including photographs of the interior of the store, to ensure they met the company’s specifications to be able to stock the produce.
“The last time I ordered from them, I bought over £12,000 worth of items from them, and I just don’t understand what has happened for them to decide that we are no longer good enough for them,” she said.
Chantelle admitted her business, Florries Gifts and Homeware, had suffered as a result of the company’s decision to remove its homeware, clothing and accessories.
She added: “Certain items, we just couldn’t keep up with the demand for.
“Things like bags and purses were going out almost as fast as they came in. Some weeks, we were selling £400-500 worth of their products to our customers, and obviously now we don’t have that money coming in.”
Chantelle initially thought her supply was being cut-off because Cath Kidston was planning to open a wholesale unit at the Clark’s Village retail centre in Street, but has since learned this is not the case.
“I’ve sent dozens of letters and emails trying to get to the bottom of this, but they will only reply saying that they are not at liberty to say why the decision was made,” she said.
Cath Kidston has enjoyed spectacular growth in recent years, with turnover rising to #89m last year compared to just #12m five years ago.
Much of this growth was fuelled by independent retailers but the brand has rapidly built up a chain of ‘own brand’ stores, adding 33 in the last year alone and now has 50 in the UK and 35 overseas.
A spokeswoman for Cath Kidston Limited said: “Cath Kidston has been extending its network of stores in the UK, and currently has 60 owned stores.
“While committed to a wholesale alongside retail business, we don’t want to overexpose the brand.”
She added that the brand is reducing the number outlets but refused to detail how many other retailers are also being axed.
“We are cutting back on the absolute number of doors in the UK,” she said. “There are no plans in place to open a Cath Kidston store in Somerset.”
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