Whilst most of the North were mopping up or battening down the hatches M&S seized the opportunity to blame their poor sales, particularly on their womenswear range, on the unseasonable weather.
This is their fifth consecutive year of bad sales performance and even though city analysts, fashion industry insiders, not to mention thousands of customers have given their free advice and insights to the very obvious issues, M&S executives seem to be the only ones with their head in the, very more appealing, sand!
With the outgoing chair Marc Bolland no doubt ‘singing in the rain’ with his purported £1.5 million payoff this is an open letter to Steve Rowe, the man now saddled with turning around the Titanic of the British high street.
One of the main gripes of their fashion arm is the inclusion of so many sub brands, with customers failing to understand the offer or difference between them. So here is my fail safe guide to deciphering the banner headings of M&S’s failing womenswear offer!
M&S sub brands explained:
Rosie for Autograph- Rosie by name Rosy by nature. Any range designed or curated by model and businesswoman Rosie Huntington Whiteley seems to be a success. I say drop the Autograph and just call it Rosie. She may as well design the whole womenswear offer.
Let’s face it she already has a lingerie, nightwear and has just launched her first active wear range! And whilst, as William Shakespeare penned "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" it certainly wouldn’t look as good if she wasn’t advertising it!
Limited-M&S say ‘Translates catwalk trends into wearable, fashion-forward pieces’. The Dictionary definition is ‘Confined or restricted within certain limits’. I say it’s definitely limited, limited appeal, limited design aesthetic, limited audience…..shall I go on. Yes it should be confined; confined to the fashion scrapheap! This is definitely one sub brand, below, that Steve Rowe should wield the axe to.
I think this sub brand could stay but it should be trend aware and not trend ‘led’; constructed in beautiful, luxury fabrics, with emphasis on considered design, in particular attention to detail.
It should be more exclusive with a limited stock quantity and several injections a season, offering resort/cruise and pre fall collections.
It needs a design signature, as the sub brand name suggests and therefore able to command a higher price point than the core offer.
Left: Autograph Black double breasted military Blazer
I say this is what M&S used to stand for and the only thing classic about the range is that it’s a classic example of where they are going wrong! The marketing of this range is non- existent and yet this is the offer geared towards their core purchasing demographic.
The graphics are fuddy duddy and not one that the savvy silver surfer wants to be associated with. Let’s face it they’ll shop at John Lewis, with it’s easy to navigate, customer friendly, pick up at your nearest Waitrose, no fuss , website!
This M&S core range shouldn’t have to be named or put into a sub category, however it’s so dull if it wasn’t highlighted you may miss it. The offer looks like an afterthought and is definitely where M&S clothing gets it’s 'frumpy' adjective from.
It continues to do its own thing, sticking to their core customer values, ’For one’ (woman) and is an area that is probably self-sufficient, thank you, and should be left to tick along whilst ticking several womenswear boxes.
Left: Per una wool blend peacoat
The prices are cough, cough inducing too and I’d rather spend my hard earnt money on a designer item. This range should be merged with Autograph with a swing tag highlighting if it’s homespun and made in Britain!!
Left: Leather lace up trainers
And there you have it, an easy to understand guide to navigating the fashion floor. I could go even further by outlining what this fond acronym, M&S , stands for; Marketing Suicide, with advertising campaigns a complete flop. Let’s face it if the siren that is Rita Ora can’t look good in an M&S dress then who can? They should really adopt a no fuss approach to their campaigns. In the words of Don Draper /Mad Men ‘Make it simple but significant’.