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Can the spring 13 collection turn M&S' fortunes around?

Today’s results have surprised no one – but when Marks & Spencer’s competitors are widening the performance gap, it’s time to ask whether the business can turn itself around.

Analyst responses to M&S’ latest set of results show that no one was expecting great things from the high street giant.

M&S’ general merchandising has been in the doldrums for some time, but so far much has been made of external factors such as the weather or the economy.

This time around, however, the string of headlines proclaiming it was the “best Christmas ever” for the likes of House of Fraser, Debenhams and John Lewis suggest something more fundamental is to blame.

In his statement, Marc Bolland admitted that “our general merchandise performance is not yet satisfactory”, but followed up by noting “our spring/summer season, which launches in stores this week, has been well received by the fashion press”.

Certainly when M&S unveiled its spring 13 collection, the fashion team at Drapers were impressed. The monochrome dress is particularly striking and picks up on what is likely to be a major trend this year for black and white, as do the lace, sports luxe and ‘60s outfits.

But there is a big difference between wowing the fashion world and getting core customers to part with their pennies. Shoppers are notoriously disloyal, and have short memories when it comes to who they love, but brand reputation is easier to lose than regain and I wonder whether M&S is targeting the right demographic with this collection.

The fact is most on-trend consumers will seek their fashion purchases from stores with the right credentials – Asos, H&M, even Primark.

The heartland M&S shopper has different needs, and the retailer must make sure they are kept onside, not alienated by its latest catwalk-inspired collection.

There is a danger that by pushing even further towards high fashion, M&S falls into the gap between both sides and ends up pleasing no one – including its shareholders.

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