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Editor's Comment: M&S shake-up is a chance to shed some obsolete brands

Keely Stocker

I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks, yet on my return the same retail stories dominated the business headlines and conversations behind the scenes at industry events: the fate of BHS and the future of Marks & Spencer under new chief executive Steve Rowe.

The official plans for M&S will not be announced until May 25, but changes within the team have already been made public. The shake-up shows Rowe is not afraid to take bold decisions to streamline the business. The rationalisation of the organisational structure is a positive step towards a clearer and more focused internal team – and by extension, a much-needed simplification of the offer for customers.

The rationalisation of the organisational structure is a positive step

The decision to reorganise the buying teams to focus on product rather than brand will allow transparency for the leadership to accurately gauge the amount of product crossover between brands and ensure there are clear definitions between each one. However, the decision to merchandise by mixing the brands seems in a way to negate the need for so many separate labels. Couldn’t they fall under one umbrella?

M&S does have a vast and varying customer base: it caters for men and women of all ages, from 20 to 80. But surely it would make more sense to have fewer, more clearly defined brands merchandised to appeal to specific target groups. There are currently eight womenswear brands to choose from on the M&S site, but no clear identity behind each – why for example, does Autograph sit as a separate entity to the Classic and Twiggy collections?

Also this week, we have been reading the initial results from our discounting survey with interest. From more than 200 responses already gathered from multiples, independents and brands, findings show that almost half (46%) go on Sale twice a year, but 40% go on Sale four or more times a year. Half of respondents expect to keep to the same level of discounting this year, while 20% expect to do more and 21% less (the other respondents did not know).

The range of comments show just how frustrated – and divided – the industry is over discounting

Half (51%) agree that discounting is damaging the high street, a third agreed that it is necessary but should be controlled in some way and 8% believe it is a useful way to clear stock, and so retailers should be free to cut prices at will.

The range of comments show just how frustrated – and divided – the industry is over discounting. For example, one respondent argued that it is an “effective way to move stock and an important tool for retailers to drastically increase sales at key points throughout the year”.

Another said: “Retailers should work harder on their buying budgets, stick to their guns and not fall into the trap of discounting.” 

It is a complicated topic but one on which I would love to hear more of your views – you still have a chance to complete the survey at and we will publish the full results in the next few weeks.


Readers' comments (2)

  • The key point here for us is focus on who the customer is and profile accurately, then buy to the profiles. If this is done well - it works. We think M&S try too hard to be all things to all people and in doing that it creates confusion and lack of focus. Retailers and brands need to value getting to know the customer as a priority for success in our view.

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  • There is so much wrong with M&S its hard to know where to start. They don't who their customers is and what they want. They try to please everyone and have a corporate way of doing things which is 40 years out of date. It's jobs for the boys and occasionally girls, but give a decent head of an Indie a week as Chief Executive and they would probably sack most of the staff because M&S's way of doing things isn't the way you do things in 2016.

    M&S must go upmarket if it is to survive in the longer term.

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