Stars fail to work their magic for struggling M&S
PITY THE poor stars of Marks Spencer’s “summer to remember” television ad – Twiggy supervising a Jubilee-themed garden picnic; Gary Barlow singing the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun around a midsummer campfire; Dannii Minogue and Myleene Klass doing the egg-and-spoon.
Their frolics have not been enough to save M&S from what it admits is an “underperformance” in clothing, particularly in the womenswear category that should, in truth, be easy pickings.
The retail group’s non-food sales in stores open for at least a year were down 6.8 per cent in the second quarter, which managed to be even worse than analysts’ already low expectations.
Kate Bostock, head of general merchandise, has now been edged out of the company, while M&S has appointed its first style director, former Debenhams chief executive Belinda Earl.
The occasional “hit” item has not disguised the fact that M&S’s womenswear ranges have been at best inconsistent in recent years, with recession squeezing the group’s traditional mid-market patch and consumers of all ages seeking a greater fashion twist even on clothing staples.
In its latest trading update, M&S singled out “casual tops” – a phrase Earl should start by banning from the group’s vocabulary – as a poor performer in the recent quarter, blaming the weather, when it should have blamed its own slow reaction- speeds to the trend curve.
The store’s invitation to customers to “shop by celebrity” on its website is an underwhelming experience, given that each hired celebrity’s look has been made blandly interchangeable.
Will the Twiggy-led ads, which have existed in one line-up or another since 2005, be up for the chop?
Either way, if Earl doesn’t manage to revamp the product itself, there isn’t a marketer or a celebrity in the world who will be able to sell it to the masses, who are steadily abandoning M&S for more fashionable pastures.