The retailer was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer and became a favourite among Britons for more than a century for its reputation of only selling British-made products. In 1998, the company became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1billion, but just one year later those profits were halved, forcing M&S to belatedly switch to overseas suppliers to cut costs. Since then, the company’s executives have penned a “radical” plan to focus more on the food retail side of the brand and, of the 959 stores across the UK, 615 now only sell produce and by 2022 they will have closed more than 100 clothing stores.
Many experts have pinpointed the demise of clothing to M&S’s reluctance to adapt to the market in the late Eighties and early Nineties, which saw brands beginning to turn to overseas suppliers and selling their products online.
Presenter Fiona Phillips revealed during Channel 5’s ‘The Fall of M&S: Food to the Rescue’ how M&S continued to pursue their expensive plan for years after their rivals switched, which would lead to them to have to make “unprecedented moves” to save the brand later on.
She said in 2019: “Online retailer ASOS’s cool ads appeal to the young, but the business also caught the eye of the city.
“By 2017, the market value of ASOS was rated above that of Marks and Spencer.
Marks and Spencer made an unprecedented move
Fiona Phillips presented the Channel 5 show
“And online shops have another huge advantage, they don’t need hundreds of expensive hight street stores with rising rents and rates.”
Judi Bevan, author of ‘The Rise and Fall of Marks and Spencer,’ revealed why retailers like ASOS sparked a new era for shoppers.
She said: “I think the ASOS phenomenon is extraordinary, it’s a completely new way of thinking.
“I think the whole retail scene has changed, young people shop differently.”
Fashion designer George Davies, who headed Next from its creation in the Eighties and started the label ‘George at Asda’ said the change was obvious to see.
Judi Bevan revealed why ASOS poses a threat
He stated: “The public are the voters and they’re voting with their pockets.
“Online is probably the biggest threat to the high street.
“I look at the overall situation now, are department stores doing well? Well, from what you read they are struggling.
“Are online retailers doing well? Yes, they are.”
Ms Phillip revealed how Mr Davies would come to play a part at M&S in a bid to help.
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George Davies was called upon to help M&S
Mr Davies worked with Next and Asda
She said: “In 2004, there was talk of a hostile takeover bid by the notorious Philip Green, who would later sell British Home Stores for a pound.
“But there was some good news, the embattled store had turned to the man who had been a thorn in its side for years – George Davies.
“In an unprecedented move, the store allowed Davies to launch his own brand – Per Una.
“Profits initially went up, with glossy adverts helping it to sell, after three years, M&S bought out George Davies for a breathtaking £125million.
“But some think Per Una has now lost its way.”
Per Una was initially a huge success
Peter Ruis said criticism of M&S is harsh
Fashion journalist Liz Jones said: “They throw everything at a garment, you know, rope and sequins, patches and jazzy lining and no one wants jazzy lining.”
Mr Davies said he thought Per Una lost its individuality after he sold the brand.
He said: “That’s the great thing about a brand, it’s why the kids love the Nikes, even though they might be quite expensive, it’s because ‘I’m wearing Nike’.
“That’s what makes a brand.
“Now, you’ll see Per Una on M&S hangers, that just confuses, is it Per Una, or is it M&S?
“You have to work out what the customer needs in a broader sense, then everybody in the organisation is tied into delivering that brand.”
But former M&S executive, Peter Ruis, said he thought criticism aimed at M&S can sometimes be too harsh.
He explained: “We have to remember that Marks and Spencer today is still the number one market share retailer in menswear and womenswear.
“It’s still an amazing retailer, it’s just the competition is such today that you can never reach the heights of the complete control M&S had in its glory days.”
Published at Tue, 16 Jun 2020 07:29:00 +0000