Belfast Telegraph

Time for Marks & Spencer to take a basic approach

By Donald C McFetridge

The news that there has been a downturn in clothing sales at Marks & Spencer will scarcely come as a surprise.

While House of Fraser, John Lewis and Next have all been reporting that trading was excellent during the festive period, M&S have had to – for the third consecutive Christmas – admit that they did not quite get it right last year.

Research indicates that the average, 49-year-old consumer wants M&S to do just five basic things:

  •  Consumers want to see more fashionable clothes in appropriate fabrics, colours, styles and shapes.
  • Fifty-year-old women want dresses with sleeves and at perfect knee-length; they don't want maxi dresses.
  •  They also want M&S to stop diffusing their brand with lots of sub-brands.
  • Top-end design houses, like Armani and Ralph Lauren, can do this; M&S can't; it hasn't worked and it's not going to.
  •  Consumers also want to shop in more attractive stores, which cater to the needs of today's sophisticated shoppers, so a revamp of a large part of the M&S estate is seemingly long overdue, or taking far too long to complete. Either one is not acceptable.
  •  Smaller clothing stores would also help to strengthen their credentials as clothing specialists.
  • For example, there's a gap in the market for 60-year old men who still want to buy walking shorts, but who are not built like 18-year-old boys.
  •  They also need to provide consumers with a better entry-level product-offering in fashion (male and female) in order to fend off value-focused retailers, like Primark.

Why pay M&S prices for something you can get at a value retail outlet for half the price?

Also, they have to stop blaming Marc Bolland; M&S have been floundering in this "forest of frumpiness" since the reign of Luc Van de Velde in the late-1990s; it's nothing new.

The message is simple but, clear: M&S should ditch the over-complicated marketing strategies and flawed advertising campaigns and get back to basics.

Belfast Telegraph