Marks & Spencer sits squarely in the mid-market. Because of this, it’s under constant attack from more specialist brands like Next (for families), John Lewis (for labels), Zara (for the career woman) and even New Look (for teenagers and young adults). The historical legacy of the Marks & Spencer brand is that, by default, it’s centred on a Middle England female customer. She’s not just more sophisticated than she was in the past – she’s now got a much wider choice of high street brands to choose from. However, a senior management reshuffle – especially the recent appointment of Janie Schaffer (formerly the chief of creative design at Victoria’s Secret) as director of lingerie and beauty – is a significant step towards helping the retailer recapture the hearts and minds of customers who have been shopping elsewhere.
Rafael Gilston is managing partner of Geek Brand Consulting.
Marks & Spencer remains a successful business, but it has clearly lost its way. Can it ever regain its former glory? Bluntly put, it is difficult to imagine. Part of the issue is competition: the clothing sector is far more competitive than it was in Marks & Spencer’s heyday. The retailer now finds itself somewhat stuck in the middle. Primark is nibbling at its heels at one end, with more premium players at the other. The days when M&S could dominate the clothing market have long since gone. Growing market share back to the levels it enjoyed 13 years ago seems an all but impossible task. Underlining this is the fact that Marks & Spencer is far too risk averse for a modern retailer, which prevents it from realigning itself with changing demand. Changing this culture is a Herculean task; a task which no one seems willing to undertake.
Neil Saunders is managing director of Conlumino.