In the UK there’s a huge furore around the news that Marks & Spencer is shuttering stores and streamlining its clothing offer. M&S is a national treasure to the Brits, so we naturally panic at such news, but I’m being optimistic. Let’s get real – I haven’t bought M&S fashion for years. I scoot through the fashion department as a thoroughfare to the food and beauty on a regular basis so it’s not like I don’t see the product. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t speak to me enough to buy it.
It has definitely improved recently, with its Best of British lines and the current AW16 collection, which I admit did stop me in my tracks a few weeks ago. But fashion is never just about the product. It’s about brand perception and store environment and how you feel when you’re buying something.
Is it a good experience? Is it exciting? Fulfilling? The M&S store experience hasn’t changed much in years and that’s a big part of the problem. With tricky layouts and a lack of staff (apparently this has been remedied but I’ve not noticed), the store environment is one of the main things everyone moans about. And of course, there’s so much competition, both on and offline, that nostalgic loyalty alone is not enough to shift product.
The solution given by M&S CEO Steve Rowe is to cut down the number of stores. This is sensible, we live in an easy-access world where drones and funny plastic delivery robots will soon solve the ‘last mile’ problem of e-commerce. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a physical shopper, I love a store, but not simply for the sake of it. Physical stores today have to offer something more than merchandise. As Rowe promises, “In the future, we will have more inspiring stores in places where customers want to shop that complement our growing digital offer.”
It’s a reinvention of a business that has become stale but is not without hope. However, as we’ve learnt before, we have to ‘use it or lose it’ in the meantime. In that spirit, here’s an edit of the M&S pieces that have caught my eye…
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGE: Marks & Spencer
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