Is M&S In Decline?

“Aims to divide a large consumer base into smaller subgroups that share similar needs and characteristics” – Ponser (Marketing Fashion)

This is the definition of consumer segmentation. Sub-brands in a store is an example of this. The sub-brands often appeal to different target audiences and therefore the brand appeals to a wider audience, attracting more consumers.

M&S have several sub brands, ranging from Classic and Per Una that are aimed at a more mature women, to M&S Women maybe for a middle-aged women and then Indigo Collection and Autograph for a younger demographic.

In my opinion, recognising consumers’ differences is the key to successful marketing. It can lead to niche marketing, which in turn can lead to segment dominance; this is often something that may not be possible in the whole market. If done successfully, the segments can be used to gain a competitive advantage, since the brand would be considering the market in different ways from their competitors.

However, according to a recent Guardian article, M&S is suffering the biggest clothing sales fall in 10 years. The article from July 2017 states that the 8.9% fall in underlying clothing and home sales over the last three months was far bigger than analysts expected and turned the clock back to 2008 when the retailer had a disastrous Christmas following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

I feel that M&S’s clothing prices have been potentially too high and too promotional. I feel that they may be losing sight of their target consumer, more mature women, who I like to wait for special offers before buying anything. I was surprised when I read that last year more than 40% of its clothing was sold on promotion.

Rowe, M and S chief executive has recently introduced a strategy to make clothing prices sharper and have a less slavish pursuit of catwalk trends. “A key part of our recovery plan for clothing and home is lowering prices and reducing promotions,” said Rowe. The cut in the prices of 1,000 product lines, although has reduced their total sales, the company have seen an increase in sales. For example: women’s leggings sales have increase 149% after the price was cut from £19.50 to £15.

I feel that this decline in sales of clothing and homewares may have occurred because they may be struggling to keep up with the pace of their competitors in fast fashion. They may be focusing too heavily on their sustainability plans, and may be losing sight of the changing fashion environment.

On the other hand, the success of M&S’s food halls has risen. This in my opinion is the area of that is keeping the business in profit. I believe that this is because of the lifestyle shift where more people visit convenience stores rather than do a big weekly grocery shop. They also offer a range of one-person ready meals in response to the increase in people living alone. Its food halls are different from the major supermarkets as they stock just 7,000 products compared with 40,000 at most Tesco shops.

Despite the decline in clothing sales over the last five years, there has recently been a more high-profile success. The collection by TV presenter Alexa Chung, entitled Winter Archive, a 27-piece collection, was more popular than other ranges. Chung worked with the design team to ensure that there was a buzz around this collection when it was released. This collection may have been more successful because there has always been a love for the brand in Britain; there may be an overriding desire for them to do well. However, I do not know whether they still managed to capture the younger generations via the campaign. They may have even made the collection ‘un-cool’ because of it being sold in M&S. I also am unsure whether Chung was the right person to promote the collection; if I’m honest, she may be a bit of a brand lover, working with as many brands as possible. A collaboration with an up and coming fashion blogger may have resulted in more sales.

What did you think about the Alexa Chung collection?


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