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Bolland holds fire on M&S brands

Katherine Rushton

When shoppers watch Marks & Spencer’s (fantastic) Christmas TV ad, they don’t see Twiggy, Dannii and Peter Kay wearing Indigo or Blue Harbour. They just think in terms of M&S - and as a marketing man, the retailer’s new chief executive Marc Bolland knows just how valuable this is.

When shoppers watch Marks & Spencer’s (fantastic) Christmas TV ad, they don’t see Twiggy, Dannii and Peter Kay wearing Indigo or Blue Harbour. They just think in terms of M&S - and as a marketing man, the retailer’s new chief executive Marc Bolland knows just how valuable this is.

His masterplan is to reinforce M&S as a name in its own right, backed by clothing and footwear ranges that are more inspiring and make better use of fabric innovations. The retailer will also bring in much-needed brand specialists with the know-how and mandate to create clearer in-store signposting and help customers to make sense of confusing sub-brands.

All of this makes sense. But if the big idea is building ‘M&S’, why didn’t Bolland go further and have a proper clear out of M&S’s proliferating sub-brands and sub-sub-brands? Portfolio is on its way out - but what about Indigo, Limited Collection and Collezione? Do they really need to stay when most shoppers don’t have a clue what they stand for?

Bolland still hasn’t addressed the key question of why M&S needs so many sub-brands in the first place, and whether it is feasible to turbocharge them all without overshadowing the currency of the M&S name itself. The review at M&S had been billed as a “bonfire of the brands”, but it felt less like a bonfire and more like a damp squib.

Either way the marketing exercise needs to be backed up by investment in product.

As British Retail Consortium figures confirmed this week, consumers are reigning in discretionary spending, which means categories like clothing and footwear need - more than ever - to present shoppers with a compelling reason to buy. Get the product on-trend, as with autumn 10’s boots (see Indicator, p12), and even discretionary spend can hold steady. Get it spot on, as Superdry has often done, and suddenly there is a whole new set of problems (p3).

Katherine Rushton Deputy editor

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