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M&S focuses on core collection to further boost sales

Marks & Spencer is focusing on improving the “nitty-gritty” of its core womenswear collection by adding different length and sizing options, in order to keep sales on an upward trend.

The retailer, which reported a 1.2% increase in fashion sales for the 13 weeks to March 28 earlier this month, breaking a cycle of 14 consecutive quarters in decline, introduced a wider range of dress lengths and styles in the M&S Collection this spring following a small trial last season.

It introduced 10 dresses in three different lengths online and in 10 stores for autumn 14. This has now been extended to 31 dresses for spring 15, available online and in 30 shops.

It has also extended the number of stores that stock its petite range from 30 to 66.

Trend forecasting agency WGSN’s INstock system found the number of short and tall sizing options available for M&S dresses increased from 12 items in spring 14 to 74 for spring 15.

The retailer has also marginally reduced prices over the last year, according to WGSN INstock.

At the end of March, 28% of full-price product was sitting in the £2 to £14.99 price bracket, three percentage points more than last year.

In the £15 to £39.99 bracket, where M&S has 57% of its full-priced product, the overall proportion has dropped by three percentage points over the year, as has the upper reaches of its pricing in the £75 to £199 bracket. M&S has just 4% of its range here – one percentage point lower than last year.

Lorna Hall, head of market intelligence at WGSN, said the changes have paid off. “It’s not all about the suede skirt, which will only be available in small volumes; it has a lot to do with the nitty-gritty and improving areas of difficulty for that core 55 years-plus customer.”

The much-hyped suede skirt was sold online in a “limited drop” to pre-registered shoppers on April 10. M&S declined to say how many it sold, although thousands registered interest. The skirt will launch in stores on May 14 as part of its second summer drop.

Reports emerged earlier this week that Hong Kong-based sourcing specialists Mark and Neal Lindsey, who were recruited in November to help M&S sort out its supply chain, are in line to receive a multi-million pound paycheck following the improvements in its profit margin.

@jillgeoghegan

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