Thursday, 8 November 2018

The slow demise of Marks and Spencer

We were chatting about M&S today, remarking on how M&S food seems to be going the way of its clothing - increasingly uninteresting and not much better than cheap and cheerful because cheap and cheerful keep catching up. 

Marks & Spencer has reported falling clothing and food sales and warned that it sees little improvement in sales this year.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out the impact of new stores, were down 2.2% for the six months to the end of September.

Food sales were down 2.9% and clothing and home sales slid 1.1%.

M&S warned trading conditions for the remainder of the financial year will remain "challenging".

"We are expecting little improvement in sales trajectory," the firm said.

It's years since I bought clothes from M&S because even supermarkets do clothing just as well. 

M&S food seems to have had a good start but times change rapidly. Now it lacks imagination and is not as well presented as many of the larger farm shops. I'm surprised M&S has lasted so long, it seems perennially unable to find a way of staying ahead of the game. Tough game though.


Thud said...

The huge store next to Cheshire oaks is a pleasure to shop in but I have noticed the average customer makes me look like a teenager....and I'm certainly not.

Sam Vega said...

I have never liked shopping in M&S, particularly for food. Their presentation of food always seemed more pretentious, the lighting is harsh, the layout is not straightforward, and even the customers seem badly behaved. When I used to shop in the Chichester M&S it seemed to be full of nasty little blue-rinse type women with sharp elbows.

Timbotoo said...

I worked for a M&S food supplier in the UK nearly 50 years ago. They were quite difficult to deal with, being very much at the forefront of quality assurance. They would demand to audit our suppliers etc etc, as I said quite advanced for the times. One time I had to coordinate a factory inspection as they had complaints of contamination in the product. The factory spent two years maintenance budget getting ready for the visit. I picked them up at the train station and we drove to the factory in silence. As we went into the director’s office, the head auditor paused in the doorway and passed a white gloved hand along the top of the door. The visit really went downhill after that.

Scrobs. said...

The food hall issue is interesting.

When they really started their grocery section, it was at a time when their clothes and fittings were at a peak.

But that was twenty years ago, and as we're that much older, better ready meals are increasingly a requirement. We just can't be arsed to spend all day making a small lasagna when you can get one for a couple of quid. It's a generation thing, and as fewer families sit around a table for meals, and of course, at our age (here anyway), we eat far less, usually sharing a meal for one, a better idea of marketing to address this issue is needed now - the warning signs are there!

What are the bright marketing young things going to do about it? Why not sell pensioner's portions, smaller versions, smaller beers, etc. We all despise waste, but a third of a loaf goes out for the birds! Luckily the dog likes Chinese rubbery stuff and Indian winalot fricasee...

Mrs O'Blene and I often comment exactly as you and Mrs H have done, and our conclusion is that really, like a lot of the old institutions, they're not keeping up with their customer requirements.

Macheath said...

A quick look at the website reveals 42 different offers operating in the Food Hall, most of them involving multiple purchases. The overall effect creates an unwelcome constant confusion - should I buy more to get the discount? How much will that save me? - and leaves those buying just one item with a niggling sense of missing out.

The management probably like to imagine us gratefully overwhelmed by the abundance of bargains; I, for one, am more likely to head to a supermarket and pay lower initial prices instead.

As for women's clothes, they have simply lost all sense of reality; vast amounts of ephemeral tat, most of it destined to end up on sale rails a few weeks hence (remember when M&S never had end-of-season sales?). As as example, this month's offerings include (in four different colours) a faux-leather mini-skirt of alarming shortness; the Venn diagram intersection of those who would wear it and those who shop in M&S must surely be laughably small.

wiggiatlarge said...

The ready meals comments are interesting as we are at that age when there are better things to do than cook so they make sense as an alternative on certain days,
Iam sure smaller portions for single people etc make sense to us but economically they don't to the supplier, pro rata they cost more to produce.

Most people also don't realise that all of these supermarket ready meals are made by only a couple of the huge producers of these products that is why when a recall of say a chicken dish is published in the paper the same product with a different name while be attributed to all the different supermarkets.
The only difference in the bulk of these meals is the the individual supermarket will add some slightly different extra ingredients to give a semblance of being unique to them.
They lost the plot on the clothing front years ago when they forgave quality which they built their trade on for tat you can buy cheaper elsewhere, not with all lines but most of the everyday ones, sad to see despite numerous claims of turnaround nothing really changes at all.
What is noticeable it is not just M&S that are losing trade any of the big supermarkets locally are quieter, the effect of online trade and the discounters is nibbling away at the high street all the time in all areas.
Regarding multiple purchases BOGOF Tesco said some time ago they were going to join the "fight" against waste and eliminate these deals, not much sign of that having happened there.

A K Haart said...

Thud - it's worth going if the customers make you feel like a teenager. Our Co-op can be like that.

Sam - when our kids were pushchair age and my wife had to get on a bus she often complained about nasty little blue-rinse type women who would barge in front while she struggled with kids and pushchair.

Timbotoo - in the early seventies I had to visit an M&S food supplier quite regularly in connection with their effluent. The place was like Fort Knox and there was absolutely no way I would ever be allowed inside in my donkey jacket and wellies.

Scrobs - we eat far less these days too. We don't buy many prepared meals because we still enjoy making our own, including our own bread. Yet if M&S had become more imaginative to stay ahead of the game, I'm sure we would go there more often.

Macheath - Mrs H struggles to find anything in the women's clothes too. I'm not sure why we bother but it may be habit - even now we expect better in spite of years of disappointment. Small shops run by the owner can be far more astute at choosing what their customers are likely to want.

Wiggia - we see that too - it is not just M&S because the big local supermarkets also seem quieter. Not all of them though - our local Sainsbury's is still busy but it doesn't have much nearby competition apart from the Co-op which is no competition at all. A local Lidl must have made a dent but that isn't particularly busy either.

Peter MacFarlane said...


I don't buy much food in M&S but I do buy my lunchtime sandwiches there, at a big food-only branch in a large railway station (Oh all right then, Glasgow Central!).

And the range hasn't changed or improved in YEARS. What used to be interesting is now "what, that again?". Serious failure of imagination. The sandwiches in Pret are much nicer (though more expensive) and God Help Me but Greggs are very nearly as good.

M&S you really need to up your game.

A K Haart said...

Peter - yes, no change or improvement for years seems to be an M&S failing, as if the thinking behind it says customers don't look around for alternatives when clearly they do.