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Smudges and Embers
Marks & Spencer
Member Name: clumsy1974
Marks & Spencer
Date: 04/05/04, updated on 04/05/04 (455 review reads)
Advantages: Good sarnies
Disadvantages: Slow to react to new fashions, Drop in quality
I dont hate M&S...
I am a former M&S employee. My partner & my mother are also former workers from this most famous British High Street institution. I have always had a soft spot for good old M&S.
As an employer, the Baker Street collosus was a great place to spend my student years. I have many happy memories (and a Fiancee) from my time there. They had a great ethos, certainly in the Central Milton Keynes branch where we worked. The management team was excellent, and we all felt part ofa big happy family.
All these happy staff, added to a pretty decent product range, made M&S a near £1,000,000,000 company. Oh how the mighty have fallen. But why?
The fall from grace
It began as I was wrapping up my degree and getting ready to move into a full time job. That year (1998) M&S started to show signs of slipping a little. The store expansion program was still underway, and the store I worked in was being streached even further (it was already huge, covering two massive selling floors).
However, the product line looked pretty much the same as it had the year before. Foods, the mainstay of the business in its darkest times these past few years, had started to introduce strange lines, such as character based kids foods that had been created in M&S board rooms rather than Hollywood studios. The clothes, especially Menswear, that had been nice enough to tempt us youngsters into buying the year before, suddenly looked dated. It was pretty easy to spot the future sales lines, even as we were unloading the lorries carrying the new season's range.
The market had changed too. Stores like TK-MAXX had arrived in a big way. They were offering brand names at drastically reduced prices. Alright, these
were last years lines, but you had the lable - and were paying maybe the same, but often less than the M&S price tag. Next, River Island, Debenhams et-al had spent years watching what M&S did, and were introducing clothes that matched the quality that M&S was famed for - but with the looks that the cat-walk dictated that sesaon. M&S, always a sesaon or two behind, were delt a sucker punch on all fronts. Even thier famous ready meals (a tea time treat when Mum's everywhere needed a break) were being rapidly copied and bettered by the likes of Tesco and (most sucessfully in my opinion, Sainsburys)
Have things got better?
This was back in 98-99. M&S hatched a few action plans. For the first time ever they considered selling third party products. This was vetoed of course, but the famous St Michael brand disapeared.
The gold and green carrier bags vanished overnight, along with the biege store furniture. M&S was reivented with trendy looking glas and chrome displays, lots of light in the stores, and "Concept" layouts. New food options were added, including Instore Bakaries, butchers counters and deli's. The bigger stores were given Coffee shops and improved Home Furnishing departments. M&S Financial services, always a big winner for the company, got plush looking suites, and a bigger product range.
Loss making overseas operations were shed, with some controversy, in places such as France, where employment laws regarding layoffs were overlooked. Red faces all round, and a victory for the French workforce followed.
IT worked though - briefly. M&S reported light at the end of the tunnel back in 2001. The Per Una ladies wear seemed a hit. Home Furnishing was so good they introduced homestores, and foods see
med to come back with a bang.
Sadly, this seems to have been a breif respite before the storm.
So, a rather long and winding intro, brings me to my point.
M&S - Not my kind of store
I went searching fro work trousers yesterday. I dont have to wear a suit, well not every day, but I am supposed to wear "Smart" trousers, and a collar does not go amiss either. I have always brought workshirts, trousers, pants and socks from dear old M&S. Yesterday I went into the Reading store, hoping to get a nice smart pair of single pleat, grey trousers.
A quick scan of the large menswear department made me feel saddned. M&S, I thought, would not be getting my cash today. I found the trousers easily enoug, but they ranged from "Italian" pale grey slacks, to 100% polyester monsters, not a million miles away from school uniform trousers. OK, so the choice was a bit nasty. So what was the price like? Expensive - very. The nicer trousers, the ones I would have brought were over £40 - those horrible polyester ones? £25! OFf to next I went. In less than 10 minutes I had a nice pair of dark gery, single pleat trousers with no turnups and a reasonble £32 price tag.
I dont buy socks, pants or shirts in M&S either. Why? They dont seem to last. For the same price as a pack of five pairs of socks in M&S I get five pairs from Next (and a trendy logo on each one). My last M&S purchases had holes in the heels in less than five wears. Shirts with the M&S tag in them seem to have developed a dislike for thier buttons - they drop them so quickly. Basically the quality is not there. The products are made cheaply, and have the characteristics of cheaper products, without the longevity.
Sadly, I am no longer an
Can it change?
I hope so. I am sure that the staff in M&S (they are still great, and still offer fantastic service) could tell the head office guys what needs to be done. I am sure there is still a place for M&S. The food is still good, and you cant beat thier sabdwiches, but this is not the way to keep the company out of the hands of people like Phillip Green.
The Per Una range was a good example of what can be done. What M&S needs to do now is look to shops like TK MAXX and try to beat them on quality. The stores are a nice place to shop, whereas TK MAXX can be a bit of a jumble sale.
They need to react faster too. The styles need to be changed as quickly as Next manage to. another thing that M&S is famous for is selling Jumpers in the summer. The seasonal change over from summer wear to autumn wear takes place in August. If you remember last year, you had no chance of selling much woolwear in the 100 degree heatwave.
M&S will be back, and then maybe I will be buying my clothes there, but thye had better hurry up about it..