Initial changes to Marks & Spencer’s management structure, board responsibilities and buying strategy under new boss Steve Rowe have been largely welcomed as a good “first step” towards reviving its flagging fashion division.
The retailer said the customer is at the heart of its new strategy, which will enable speedier decision making and a “more confident and coherent” fashion offer.
It has revealed a new, slimmed down management structure – resulting in the departure of a number of senior staff – and a well-received autumn 16 range, which will be merchandised by outfit rather than brand. M&S is also establishing a new operating committee, which will be accountable for the day-to-day running of the business, as well as for the development and execution of strategy.
Honor Westnedge, lead analyst at Verdict Retail, said: “It’s the first step in the strategy to improve the fashion offer. Something had to give and those in charge of divisions had to be looked at and streamlined to make the business operate more quickly.
“The fashion category has to come first and the operating committee will give the team a clear directive across the business so everything is better aligned.
“That’s important as M&S needs to get its lingerie shoppers buying into its womenswear and its fashion customers buying into its homeware to increase that all important average spend. Clear management structure will help do that.”
The autumn 16 range was the first to be unveiled following a reshuffle of the womenswear buying teams to focus on product type. For example, where once there would have been buyers for Autograph and Per Una, now there are buyers for jersey or knitwear.
The move has been met with a mixed response from suppliers. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing as it gives us a chance to sell into the other M&S brands,” said one.
“The only problem is keeping the brands looking individual. You could be buying the dresses for Indigo, for example, but you have no idea what the knitwear buyer is doing. It has to all fit together so the buyers must work closely to the design brief and the head [buyers] are pulling all of the looks together.”
Another supply source warned of some initial bumps in the road: “They have moved some buyers into a specialism where they don’t know what they are doing. They may have been a trousers buyer on Autograph and now they are buying jersey across the board. ”
As well as merchandising more by outfit than brand, M&S has also bought deeper into some trends and streamlined some of its product categories.