The noble high street chain, M&S, is in trouble again; in the last couple of weeks announcing that it is set to close 300 of its stores. I am a real fan of M&S. I have found some of my best pieces amid the granny-ish sweaters and cardigans. So I just don’t understand how they can get it so right, and yet so wrong?
A third of the nation still buys its undies at M&S but something is seriously amiss with their clothing range as they struggle to navigate between tradition and trend. The creation of sub brands Per Una, Autograph and Limited Edition were created to address the wide scope of fashion offering, but to no real effectiveness.
M&S produces some fantastic clothes in exceptional quality and at very reasonable prices. Obviously they do the classics incredibly well, but they also pull out winning on-trend pieces. Unless you live near one of the more fashion-forward branches, then online is where it’s all at.
The last 3 items I have purchased from M&S have been stand-out pieces and absolute winners: white, floor-grazer trousers, a leopard print dress & a rainbow skirt (purchased in an outlet store). But when I tell people where they came from, I almost always receive a suprised response.
The leopard dress in particular was a massive hit on Instagram, and so it should be. It’s a fabulously flattering, on point piece. But without the insta-bloggers immediately snapping it up and posting on their grid, I wonder if it would have sold so well? Online, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at it. The stock photo doesn’t even show the on-trend go-faster stripe down the side – one of the key selling points!
One of the reasons, in my opinion, that M&S is not hitting the mark and appealing to the wider buying fashion-forward demographic is their styling. Online, the way they present clothes is simply awful and stuck in the dark ages, I feel like I am scrolling through the pages of a Kays Catalogue!!! Plus the local branches – mine included – do not present their clothing in a way that appeals to anyone but the much older generations. I’ve received many a comment from ladies saying they just can’t find things in M&S – most definitely not on the shop floor, but unfortunately not online either.
Thankfully M&S is collaborating with some of the key Influencers on Instagram – Kat Farmer & Erica Davies – who are doing a fab job of bringing to our attention some of the season’s key, on-trend pieces. But this marketing approach is limited to Instagram and not everyone – especially the maturer fashion-buying market – is active on this platform.
M&S also have their Try Tuesday stylists – a free, online styling service, but did you even know about this???
I’ve always been a fan of M&S and have scored some fantastic items – often at knocked-down prices in the sale because they haven’t managed to sell during the season. But I am someone who follows and seeks out fashion… with a passion. Not every 40-something women has the time or the inclination to do so, and therefore is likely to dismiss M&S based on their fuddy-duddy reputation.
I like the fact that M&S has something for everyone. But the wider, fashion-buying public still think M&S is only good for basics and classics. Evidently M&S needs to deploy clearer marketing strategies that speak directly to each of their niches. The sub-brands are confusing… maybe have just one or two? I mean, does Per Una even sell???
With the leopard dress featured above, M&S has proved it can do responsive fashion (like Zara). This dress, a limited edition, was introduced mid-season on the back of the popularity of a previous, identical-style polka dot dress… so why not do more like this?
But what do I know? I’m just a consumer… I don’t have in-depth knowledge of how the retail industry works. All I do know, is that when M&S get it right, they get is SO RIGHT! I would be incredibly disappointed to see M&S disappear from our High St. Sadly, I’ve heard rumours that our local branch is set to be one of the casualties…
I’d love to know your thoughts on M&S… would you list this retailer as one of your go-to stores for fashion, or just undies or food? Have you found any recent gems in M&S? What do you like or dislike about M&S?
Here’s hoping they take some drastic action soon and recognise that us over 40s are not enticed by waterfall cardigans and comfy, safe shapes, but nor do we want over-styled, naff fashions. Give us sleek and unusual cuts, bold colour and print… classic style with a twist!
Please note, this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.