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M&S cashes in on Sex and the City

Marks & Spencer's tie-up with Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field is understood to have netted the retailer about £1 million in sales in its first five days – one of the few bright spots for the high street retailer after it reported a 34% slide in profits this week.

Industry insiders said the collection, which launched on October 16, defied the critics and proved to be a great success for the retailer, which has been working to maintain market share on womenswear amid the economic downturn.

The full collection went into 10 stores and online, while selected pieces were rolled out to a further 50 UK stores.

Sources told Drapers that M&S was considering whether to invest in collaborations next year on the back of the success of the range, which was not advertised but generated significant press coverage. The Patricia Field deal is for one season only.

M&S said at its interim results this week that it had kicked off a full-scale marketing review and that it planned to reduce its marketing spend by 20% next year. It is thought that celebrity faces could be ditched from next year’s advertising to help meet the target.

Sources told Drapers that models Erin O’Connor and Lily Cole, who are considered "peripheral faces" for M&S, were being closely looked at.

Speaking at the results this week, M&S executive director of marketing Steven Sharp said the retailer had "lots of [marketing] options" available to it next year. An M&S spokeswoman declined to comment on the Patricia Field sales figures. She said there were no other collaborations planned.

She said: "Patricia Field has been very successful because there were pieces that appealed to every M&S customer. Some product was held back for the Westfield London opening last week but that’s all gone now."

Best-selling pieces from the line included a black corsage dress at £85, a blue dress with split chiffon sleeves for £99 and a £75 black mac.

The success of the Patricia Field collection suggests there is still consumer appetite for collaborations between retailers and celebrities.

Key pieces from the Christmas Kate Moss for Topshop range sold out within hours of going on sale last month. The Kate Moss range netted £3.5m for Topshop in its first week after it launched in spring 2007.

Separately, British designer Alexander McQueen will launch a collection for US value fashion chain Target in March, based on his McQ diffusion line. This is the first time he has done a tie-up with a mainstream retailer.

M&S will launch a smart casual womenswear sub-brand, called Portfolio, to target women aged 45-plus in February. About 80% of Portfolio will be at opening price points within the retailer’s good, better, best strategy.

M&S results:

  • Total sales +0.8% to £4.2 billion

  • Pre-tax profits -34% to £297.8 million

  • UK sales -1.1%

  • International sales +23.9%

  • Like-for-like sales -5.7%

  • Like-for-like general merchandise -6.2%

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