Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thoughts on Marks & Spencer

Since my last post about the tassel boots, I made a point of going to visit M&S to try on (see the video here!) but I also wanted to challenge myself to have a proper look around the store in case I was being unfair in my assessment of them in that last post. You see, apart from underwear/PJ's and some jersey basics, I've not bought anything to write home about in M&S in the past year. Will SS16 be a season to remember - for all the right reasons?

As I made my way into the Sprucefield store, I remembered that it's the size of their stores that is part of the problem. It's overwhelming - even for a seasoned shopper like me.
Immediately on my right, I had Autograph, which is always worth a look. On the opposite side of the store, it's Limited Edition. In between these two brands, there's Per Una and Indigo...two brands that I can no longer bring myself to look at. Too many patterns! Oh and not forgetting M&S Collection, Classic and Twiggy. Exhausting!

I started with Autograph and admittedly, spotted some gorgeous classic, structured pieces like this coat:

and this stripy top:
And then I remembered why I buy so little from M&S as I looked for my size in both items:
So frustrating. Especially this early in the season. No, I don't want to order it into the store, I don't want to go online. I just want to be able to try on the things I like, decide that I like it and then bring it home with me!

It baffles me why some stores can always have a good range of sizes out and others like M&S seem to struggle to get enough 10-14's in. A quick peruse of the last of the sale confirmed this for me - it was basically a 90% plus-sized sale. Someone somewhere is getting the numbers all wrong....it's great  and necessary to have a wide spread of sizes but surely a company the size of M&S can dictate the spread of sizes better and ensure that more of the mid sizes are stocked.

I did find this jumper in my size and can confirm it's gorgeous...too like my Boden Off Duty so I couldn't justify.
This breton was also available in a 12 and was really lovely.
Over to Limited then and I actually took no photos....there was nothing that grabbed me. So disappointed.

Next step, accessories and this leather bag got a huge thumbs up for me. Not sure how I feel about 'Autograph' being 'Michael Kors'ed' onto the front of it but you could always wear it facing inwards? The leather & suede are gorgeous and it's a lovely quality


Autograph Leather Across Body Bag
But for me, the footwear still remains M&S's best department. The buyers there have got their game sorted. There's a good range of sizes, lots of lovely leather and some nice nods to catwalk trends and more expensive brands:
A bit like the tassel boots which I did like and will likely buy in time. A few other outgoings coming up for me this month so I need to resist for now!
What's the answer? Well, I think M&S needs to look to the shops that are nailing it right now and make a few changes. There are too many brands for a start. M&S is not a concession store like Debenhams/House of Fraser so it needs to not behave like one. Stay true to the M&S name and brand and stop diluting with endless sub-brands.

Think of Zara, Mango, Next (have struggled in AW15 but look promising in SS16) - all of which just have one brand across the store (apart from Zara TRF which I don't often notice I've moved into anyway). You move freely around the store. The sub-sections are more functional in nature like workwear, denim, coats, knitwear etc., so it's easy to shop for what you want.

Having said all that, their website has improved immensely - if, like me, you've not looked at it in a long time, do have a look.

So there's my soapbox on good old M&S....a brand I'd love to feature more on this blog in a positive light. I know many of you shop there regularly and love the brand but the bottom line speaks volumes. They're losing the 30-50 year old demographic to places like Zara, H&M and John Lewis. Yes, we're still loving the food (and the Percy Pigs) but that isn't enough to sustain the fashion square footage.

Do let me know what you think....can M&S ever find its fashion mojo again?

Ax
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23 comments

  1. Oh goodness a bag with Autograph on it!? They need to fix that - gorgeous bag but I don't want to tell everyone I got it at M&S! I love their shoes too and often buy a few pairs there each year. I can tell big changes are on their way - for the better - as we now have our own dedicated US site with local returns!!

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    1. That's great to hear for the US - let's hope the fashion sells a bit better over there! And yes, the more I think about the bag, the less I want it with Autograph on the front! x

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    2. Agree! That is a lovely looking bag, but i hate the Autograph signage!!

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  2. I love M&S footwear, in fact I own the grey boots pictured and can testify for them, I love them and am always getting complimented. I like their jeans too but that's about it. Great point on the sizing, it drives me bonkers. And Sprucefield gives me a headache going in the door!

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    1. Interesting about Sprucefield - I used to love going there but I feel the same when I go there now. Maybe it's because I'm busier and don't have the time to browse?! x

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  3. Totally agree Avril about the sizes and there's no in between styling either. They don't seem to know which type of customer they are hoping to attract. I'm 60+ and there's nothing to encourage me to buy, Next have nailed it always have a range of sizes and a great choice of clothes . Agree though about their footwear it's the only positive !

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    1. That's interesting to hear it from your perspective Lynne and great that you're finding Next delivering. I was disappointed last season but I'm much more impressed with Next this season - have a post planned on that! x

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  4. Totally agree with this! I walk through an M&S often due to where I park when I meet friends, and I rarely see anything that grabs me. Any nice pieces, featured on blogs or in mags are usually sold out. I also would never pay full price for anything in M&S, due to the number of 20% off events they have now. Also I HATE the website, especialy during sale! The nain item page with show the sale price, then when you click on the item you see it's actually sold out in the sale & it's other colourways that are available...at full price. So frustrating! Ok I'll stop now :) x

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    1. I'd not thought about the 20% off aspect - it's perhaps becoming a bit like Boden then where we all wait for discount. And I agree re sold out stuff on the website. Had forgotten how frustrating that is! Thanks Lisa xx

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  5. I really struggle with M&S. I love the footwear, I've bought some lovely shoes from there but the only other thing I've had any success with is a Limited Edition leopard print coat from A/W 2014. I feel you should be able to grab your basics like Bretons and t-shirts from M&S but I think the quality is suffering with the constant discounting. I only tend to actually look around when I take my mum shopping, she buys quite a lot from there, maybe that's part of my problem xx

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    1. I actually think the mother/mother in law bit is the most off-putting for me. It's partly because that generation are becoming more stylish I know...and that's great. But it does make it difficult for retailers and they end up trying to be everything to everyone. Now I'm thinking of it, I bought quite a few pieces from M&S that season AW14 - was obviously a good one xx

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  6. Agree with everything you say Avril. I haven't been in to our big M&S since way before Christmas. The website puts me off...it's so dull so I have no incentive to drive 7 miles down the road to actually go into the shop. I hate monograms on any bags, designer or not. Why do they think that anyone would want Autograph written on their bag??? Come on M&S you can do better than this. xx

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    1. I actually didn't expect as many people to agree on this - so I'm glad it's not just me getting all ranty in my old age lol!! Thanks Donna! Ax

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  7. Totally agree about the lack of sizes in store. So frustrating! Have you tried their new Tuesday styling service though? https://trytuesday.com/ I'm giving it a whirl at the moment and I have to say I've been impressed, mainly because they do the wading through the stock for you! So far, my selections have been pretty much spot on, to the point that I would actually consider purchasing some of their recommendations. Worth a try as it's a free service!

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    1. Thanks Rachel - I've heard about the Tuesday Styling service - must look into it again. I guess, I've always preferred to go in-store and browse and try on myself. I don't like the 'pressure' of stuff being suggested to me as I invariably end up buying something that I can't afford!! x

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  8. The sizing issue in M&S is not new. I cannot fathom how they haven't figured this it yet. Always lots of sizes in 16+, lots of 8s, but 10-14s are always non existent. We may well be a nation getting bigger but there are still a huge wedge of the female population in the 10-14 range. It's killing them. Bad enough to be out of stock in store but out of stock online is outrageous. Especially when it is an advertised piece or something that has been picked up by bloggers/magazines in the previews. If its popular then make more. Surely it's not that hard!
    And yes to too many ranges. Autograph is great, I don't mind Indigo for some pieces. Per Una is frills and just wrong. And Ltd Collection tries too hard. People buying real on trend (but a bit edgy) stuff go elsewhere. Fact.

    Their knickers still do it for me, and school uniform basics/kids underwear are good value. And their brand skincare (pixi, REN etc) is great, esp on 20% off days.

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    1. Oh yes - 100% re the beauty range & the undies. I should have credited them in the post. Both are first class! Glad you share my frustrations otherwise - it doesn't change anything but at least it's not just my store or me being an awkward customer...it really is a 'thing'! x

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  9. ...totally agree....M&S is a needle in a haystack shop. Perhaps one or two great items for every 50 or so duds. It's fine if you've got a bored hour or so!
    Re fringed boots, have you seen the similar ones in Next clearance? Black suede, sizes 5, 6 and 7 available at time of writing, £30.

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  10. Totally agree with your comments Avril. I had some vouchers from Christmas and struggled to find anything to wear. I did however get a great pair of nude court shoes and two nightdresses. I got a lovely autograph linen top last year, but it was dire this time, and they never have the sizes you need, they really do need to up their game.

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  11. I'm a big fan of M&S but I too have been disappointed by their latest offerings. I was in store last week and I bought a cardigan, which is going back, and done knickers. That's it! All a bit dull. Lynne xx

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  12. Well I have to say I totally agree with you and previous commenters, which kind of leaves me wondering why I'm commenting as you've all said it already! :-D It does feel as though they're wondering around in the dark a little just now though, doesn't it? For me, they could learn some huge lessons from John Lewis, who somehow manage to appeal to all customer types and ages without having lost their core identity. It's such a shame, as people have a lot of goodwill towards them, but it won't last for ever. I hope they can sort themselves out...

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  13. bit late here... just discovered your lovely blog. I agree with all comments about Marks. Never find your size (I am a 10/12), the selection(s) are way to random and confused. They don't appear to have a clue as to who they are selling to any more and buyers have a 'scatter effect' of trying to cover all bases and fail miserably. Lingerie is good as is most of the footwear. Oh, and the website is awful.

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  14. bit late here... just discovered your lovely blog. I agree with all comments about Marks. Never find your size (I am a 10/12), the selection(s) are way to random and confused. They don't appear to have a clue as to who they are selling to any more and buyers have a 'scatter effect' of trying to cover all bases and fail miserably. Lingerie is good as is most of the footwear. Oh, and the website is awful.

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I love reading your comments and will reply as soon as I can if you have a specific question. If for any reason, you are unable to leave a comment, just drop me an email at avril@alifetostyle.com or leave a comment on the A Life to Style Facebook Page! Thank you xx

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