Marks & Spencer sends Portfolio to wardrobe heaven
By now, it is pretty much standard for Ireland to get mentioned in the same sentence as Greece – it’s not just the facepalming bond junkies, but the mid-market retailers as well. Publishing interim results today, Marks & Spencer noted that while many of its overseas businesses were achieving good growth, some “continue to be impacted by the economic downturn, particularly the Republic of Ireland and Greece”.
That’s polite investor relations-speak for “oh dear god, no one’s buying our workwear wardrobe staples anymore and if we’re not careful, we’ll end up with a Cumberland sausage mountain just in time for the January diet season”. Of course, that is paraphrasing, and if there’s one thing all major retailers have been doing in Ireland over the past two years, it’s managing their inventories with recession-esque caution.
The M&S statement, which reported an overall 5.4 per cent rise in sales, revealed that new chief executive Marc Bolland is taking a hard line on the proliferation of clothing brands at the store. He’s zapped the Portfolio range, which was introduced last year but left consumers cold and confused. Indeed, the differences between Portfolio and its Autograph collection (more tailored) or its Per Una range (more tassels) were never especially pronounced, while the knowledge (from my bad habit of reading retailer press releases) that Portfolio was aimed at women over 45 always made me feel that even browsing its racks was instantly ageing. Older customers, those in the demographic that Portfolio was supposed to cater for, also failed to be impressed.
Mind you, obliterating Portfolio is the type of sensible-but-kind-of-obvious manoeuvre that makes Bolland (not to be confused with the late glam-rocker Marc Bolan) one of the best paid chief executives in the UK.