The owner of a countrywear shop in a North East market town has been forced to rebrand the business she named after her daughter following the threat of legal action by a global fashion retailer.
Donna Dobson, of Zara Countrywear, was shocked to receive 40 pages of legal documents from high street chain Zara demanding that she change the name, take down her website and popular Facebook page and destroy everything bearing the name, from bags to business cards.
Unless she rebranded, the company threatened to sue her for a percentage of the profits she has made since opening the shop in Barnard Castle in 2007 and naming it after her then newborn baby Zara.
The demand came just weeks after the shop was burgled and thousands of pounds worth of stock was stolen.
After taking legal advice, Donna says she had no option other than to make the changes and she has now relaunched the business as Fox & Field, with new signage, branding and online presence.
However, Zara, which is owned by multi-national company Inditex, also sent Mrs Dobson a bill for £800 to cover its legal costs, which she was advised to pay to settle the matter.
The shop, in the Market Place, sells high quality country boots, tweed coats and clothing by independent British and Irish brands including Hunter, Seasalt and Jack Murphy to customers who typically own horses and dogs and enjoy country pursuits.
Donna, 44, who is well known in Teesdale, said: “As distraught and upset as I was about the injustice of it, I had no choice. I’m a small, sole trader and if I tried to fight the case and didn’t win I could have lost not only my business but also my farm.
“After getting over the shock, I’m being positive now and see it as an opportunity. Friends and customers have been really supportive and everyone likes the new Fox & Field brand.
“Although I’ve rarely had anyone confuse us with Zara, I hope we might actually attract some new customers who could have been put off thinking we were connected with them.
“We have a very different customer base and offer high quality, British brands to discerning customers. We’re also going to be relaunching our online shop to spread even further the Fox & Field name and the beautiful area in which we’re based.”
She added: “I’ve heard of cases before where these big multinational corporates bully small businesses into submission and giving up everything they’ve worked for. I still don’t understand why corporate giants can be allowed to stamp on the kind of local enterprises that this country was built on.
“I would like to warn anyone else thinking of naming a business. For us, we will not just carry on under a new name but we’ll become even better.”