Communication, consistency, customer service and commitment are key to surviving the current challenging retail environment.

That's the view of successful women's clothing designer James Lakeland.

Speaking to in-Cumbria, James - who has two stores selling his clothing in Cumbria - said retailers needed to "up their game" to stay afloat.

However, it was still possible to be successful by doing the right thing.

"Despite everything that is going on, people still get married and have job interviews and have first dates," he said.

"And when it comes to women and clothing, women want to look good."

Retailers needed to have a clear and consistent offer and communicate that to their customers in an interesting way, he said.

In particular, they needed to make sure that their social media output engaged customers and told their story clearly.

"There is a massive community on the internet and no matter whether you are big or small you need to communicate with people," he said.

"You've got to do something which is different to keep people excited."

James Lakeland has 30 outlets nationwide including Maya Maya, in Kendal, and Annabelles, in Cockermouth.

James said fellow high street retailers which were getting it right included women's clothing brand Zara and Sports Direct.

"Sports Direct understand their market and they know exactly what they want," he said.

"I recently went there to buy some trainers with my daughter and I knew they would have a massive selection and I'd find good prices. It's got to be clear.

"People come to James Lakeland because it's unique, it stands out.

"If you want to be successful as an independent boutique you need to really build a relationship with your customers.

"The internet now is behaving like a personal shopper ordering clothing to your house. If you are independent then you need to do the same thing."

This required retailers to get inside the minds of their customers and ask questions like where they went on holiday and what parties they went to.

"The most important thing is customer service and that is what can be lacking," he said.

"I have been in lots of stores and people don't even approach me. That is one of the major problems, the service we get in the UK just isn't up to scratch.

"You have to up your game at the moment and it's not easy to do. You've got to be very committed."