Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dear M&S

I think you need my help. I'm sure you might assert that on principle I'm just another opinionated stylist, however, I would like to assert back that this isn't the case. Currently, after many successful years in fashion journalism, marketing and as a freelance stylist (who isn't!) I'm undertaking an MA in Fashion and Film at the London College of Fashion.

My view is that you need to undertake a radical rethink and over haul of your womenswear offerings. I have struggled over the last few years to attire one single female client in anything other than your pants - waist clinchers and tummy tuck ones to be precise, oh and some great claret tights last season. BTW we are talking 40+ peeps here, I'm taking my 50+ lot to Kew and elsewhere to reconnect them with style, they all felt tired and dull.
With what do I find fault, I'm not going to list it all but here is a selection:-

1. Overstocking on the shop floor, this is with regards to the rails, the multitude of them on the floor and the fact you can't see things. Yesterday with one item, product code T572433A - a Perfect Military Pocket Knee length skirt with belt to be precise, I had to struggle with a multitude of skirts all hung on one rail intended for 15 to swish nicely at best. There were about twenty size 10s in amongst a few other sizes. This is unnecessary and immediately puts the customer or stylist in a sweat as they grapple to stop the items falling on the floor, as you bump behind into the adjoining equally overstocked rail and then stick your right and left elbow into the others.

Please go for a stroll around Selfridges 2nd floor, enjoy the stroll, the ability to view items and browse. Note how items are hung and think about how you could achieve the same.

2. Bring back the square jumper/tshirt things - even Primark has these and yes they do get untidy but you don't have to overfill them and restocking and keeping things tidy would reconnect the sales assistants with the customer and save them pulling rails around in a random fashion. I'm not advocating old style but a new interpretations of an old classic presentation retail style.

3. Less is more - please scale down Limited Collection, Autograph and Per Una (actually I'd love you to get rid of Per Una but that will happen naturally), in fact scale down everything. There is too much volume. Have better processes that improve production on lines selling well and an ability to deliver what the customers want, think Topshop. Topshop deliver a line of basics that only vary occasionally, in colour or a minor style tweak. Then they add the rest. You do basics too but they are not quite right, not clearly defined except on the knickers front. don't just go to Topshop, go to Zara too. Look at their cardigans and jumpers folded on the shelves. Do this for UK women and get a template that is trendy but for the over 35 year body - it'll be a winner.

4. Do a line that are style classics, do not mess with these, get the cut, cloth and colour right and exploit this gap in the market. Get the body standard deviation right too based on post twenty something (see above). I know that you might think that your new Perfect offering is doing this but. The above mentioned product is quite nice but you are delivering an old school Next offering mainly in polyester and it isn't going to be a winner - but you can come back to me and tell me I'm wrong with your amazing sales results.

5. I give you a favourite dress of mine. It is simple, well made and has lovely beading detail. It wasn't expensive and not many were made. It isn't an amazing design but it works as a dignified understated LBD when the moment requires one. It is an Autograph New York number - and I bought it because the Autograph section was attended to by a lovely lady who knew her stock, customers and loved her job. In the last 5 years all I have bought from M&S apart from food occassionally are some pants, a pair of ballet pumps on sale and some pirate socks for my 3 year old - and goodness you are actually delivering some clothes for children I can buy again, great Spiderman pants!

Here is my lovely dress. Please ask me to come in to be a consultant for a 6 month period - I will make you millions and save you during the hard times - failing hiring me get some A list designers in again and ditch the F listers you seem to think will make do, well they won't.


  1. Hi there-make sure you send the letter to mr rose by special delivery, so he signs for it! I don't like the Per Una range, out of the 3, I like the Limited Collection. But, I don't really shop in M&S anymore, just for underwear.

  2. Well obviously no idea about M&S (although in my immediate post-partum phase I did have a navy blue voile hoodie tunic thing from Autograph that I bought for 50c at an op-shop), but you certainly sound like you know what's what!

    I hope they give you a go at sorting out the place.

  3. Did they make you an offer, yet?

  4. Great post - they should definitely hire you. Lets face it they are going to have to do something.

  5. It's a common problem across the pond as well.

    Overstocking anything (especially when the hangers don't swish so I can look at each garment on the rack), makes me leave the store.

    That, and when everything is piled neatly on a table in a big fat hot mess.

    The problem with classics is that every retailer thinks we're going to get bored with that. AU CONTRAIRE!! White House Black Market is all black or white and their designs are simple and fun.

    Very wearable.

    Fabulously Broke in the City

    "Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver."

  6. Hi, hope if you don't send this to them, that they read your blog ;)


  7. You will send this, I hope. It's a terrific open letter and they'd be lucky to have you.

  8. When stores have too much merchandise and I feel like I am going to have to work to see it I am not inclined to. I don't want shopping to seem like work.

  9. Oh Purlease! Get into H&M while you are at it. I cannot stand having to crowbar a bunch of hangers over just to look for sizes, especially when I have a Bag of previous purchases, coat, scarf and usually a Boo in my other hand. Bad stock management and bad retailing.
    As for engaging with customers, in Ireland they employ security guards to watch "suspicious" customers. When I worked in Country Road, QVB we used to just serve the shoppies away.
    *Shop lifter putting $600 parka jacket on and walking out the door*
    Me: Can I help you with that jacket? Would you like to look at any other sizes??
    Shoppie: Ah, No, I won't take it afterall...........*runs away*

    I wonder if retailing will improve in the current climate? (can it become anymore abrasive and unpleasant??)
    If the current management having been promoted up through the ranks had bad floor skills, can they possibly re-train and re-motivate to actually serve and sell???


  10. I seriously can't remember the last time I bought anything for myself from M&S. Oh hang on, yes I can, two black cashmere v neck jumpers a couple of years ago. But that's it. Everything you say is right. My other bugbear is there is NEVER anyone on the shop floor to assist. WHERE ARE THE STAFF?! And why are the stores so soulless and depressing? As for Per Una...the mind boggles, it really does.

  11. So far, I haven't bought anything but food in M&S!

  12. Can I add to your list of requests to M&S?

    Turn the bleeding heat down in here! It's making me batshit crazy.
    Thank you.


  13. Oh I don't know, I thought thay M& S had some lovely shoes this season, and I alsoi found a lovely fake fur brown shrug... I'm sure that I could have bought more, but my student budger isn't that huge at the moment!



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