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Deputy Diary: M&S - the saga continues

This time last week, we were waiting for Marks & Spencer to unveil its autumn 13 womenswear collection (see Drapers’ thoughts on this Reuters video) to see if it could rescue falling clothing sales; today we await its less favourable full-year results due out tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly, those in the industry can’t help but talk about M&S’ future and everyone has an opinion on this and its new collection. At the dinner for buyers and merchandisers I attended last week, hosted by recruitment firm Bloom Retail, we heard from Conlumino analyst Neil Saunders on the state of the fashion retail market and its future. Neither Neil, nor the diners, could help but link his findings back to M&S.

According to Neil’s research, good editing of product is one of the key factors that attract shoppers to a particular retailer. In fact, 61.7% of people find “searching through lots of clothes to find the right thing” annoying. Everyone agreed that this is one of M&S biggest problems.

No matter how excellent its collection might be in terms of individual pieces and coherent fashion stories, if the editing of these stories is badly executed by the clothing team at M&S, and then lost in-store in a sea poorly merchandised products, no customer is willing to spend hours sifting through rails. As Neil explained, if you take a white blouse, for example, M&S will have about 26 different iterations (usually size) on rails in stores compared Debenhams’ 12 and Next’s 11.

But Neil also emphasised the opportunities out there for M&S and its contemporaries in terms of its customer demographic. Growth in retail spend between 2012 and 2022 will be driven by the 55+ age group (M&S’ core customer), growing by 42% in the 55-64 bracket, 64.8% in the 65-74 group and 62.1% in the 75+ age group. They favour service over price, but price is still more important than quality.

If M&S gets the service, price and quality mix right, then the customer group is there for the taking.

But what do you think? Have you seen our stories and image galleries on M&S’ autumn 13 collection? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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