Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Has it really been that long...to heart M&S

Truly I do, love M&S. I'm sure it is in part an association with many memories over the years, even a hideous pair of sandals for school one summer. It wasn't Markses fault, I just wasn't allowed a more on trend but obviously 'cheaper' pair from Stead and Simpson. The cheapness was in the shop of course and M&S stood for all those wonderful middle class/petite bourgeois values. And to some extent it still does. Who wouldn't prefer to do their weekly shop at M&S or Waitrose over the rest, if we were moneyed. Now the old purse strings are sort of shut - indulgence is at a premium and has reverted to being a luxury, not a necessity.

Whilst M&S celebrates a 125 years of trading on the high street in all it's many manifestations, it is also facing a drop in pre-tax profits of 40% ( down from £1.1bn to 706m). Now there are lost of reasons for this due to lowering margins, restructuring etc. etc. But, one can't help but feel that the high street clothing offerings are not hitting the mark.

I have a few areas of criticisms and a whole heap of praise after all who would want to see it disappear - I'm still getting over Woolworths and holding a torch for Snob (I felt so grown up the first time I shopped there).

It's not the first time I've made a few remarks and so a couple of remarks are repeats!

Over stocking on the shop floor - please there's too much stuff, given the current layout of the store. Browsing is harder and so it getting something off the rails without knocking half the items to the floor.

More importantly the reason I suspect for the drop is the fact many of us have been turned off from M&S clothing in the last few years due to our glam purchases on Net-A-Porter, Matches, My-Wardrobe to name a few supplemented by Topshop. Primark et al. Why buy at M&S when you can get what you want from Oasis to Reiss or APC to American Apparel. If you're a boutique shopper or a Dover Street Market person then M&S has no relevance for you. It is the lack of relevance for the savvy shopper, the confident car booter and Internet purchaser.

Those of us who are avid followers of fashion form trends to individual quirks and style then step into M&S and be greeted by Per Una and we are out of the door or just hot footing it to the sandwich section. I'm only prepared to check out their stock for clients and M&S can satisfy a range of issues from size to budget that a broader mix can't.

Whilst Per Una might satisfy today's 50+ lady it certainly isn't true of those hitting 50 in the next few years ( the Madonna factor). By and large they wouldn't be seen dead in such garments. I could go on for ever on my loathing of Per Una!

Yet, even the rest of the products tend to lack a certain something supplemented with some really brilliant pieces - which become an amazing find because a) they are in M&S and b) they are great value for money.

Take these kick flare jeans at £19.50 they are a complete bargain and they are fab! Then you can spend your money on a expensive top instead.

I'm a great fan of their knickers but would never buy a bra there. The children's clothing is getting better and better after probably being the worst high street offering for ages. Certainly the Menswear Autograph range delivers great value and now is getting its act together on the jeans. If you want a functional, good value and lovely denim jean then it is worth a browse in Autograph.

If you hunt long enough you can always find something of value or worth for your wardrobe in M&S...but if it wants to keep it's market presence in womenswear for the next 125 years it needs to take stock and bring in some fresh eyes!


  1. Hi there-I still only buy my knickers from Marks & Spencer and thanks to a very kind mum, I get some food every week from there too!

  2. You're back!
    Love M&S knickers and bras. My mum is visiting from Sydney on the weekend and no doubt M&S will be on the itinerary for an afternoon of bra shopping! xx

  3. I've missed your posts - it's so good to have you back. I go to M&S every Friday for a pizza. It's our Friday night treat and they are damn good! Never bought their clothes though. As you say way too much to bother looking through! Jx

  4. When I was in Canada I bought some great things there.


  5. M&S is confusing in many respects but perfect in others.... it really does take a bit of hunting and actual trying on...proof is in the pudding and all that.... glad to see you back by the way!

  6. managed to get to 10 1/2 stone on MS Pizza and those little chocolate star things in 1987, and I havent really forgiven them.

    But Kate, I do totally get your criticism of their fashion, I won't even buy per una in a charity shop. Just too much of it. I also hate crowded racks that break your fingers as you search for your size but good management means we never criticize without suggesting an alternative.

    What do you think they should do?

    Do you think it is time for a guest designer? or would you set up some concession stands, "market" style?


  7. Love to set up a concession area or undertake style consultancy for M&S.

    I was a bit market trader at TK Maxx on thursday - come and get your fendi and versace sunnies here!


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