The Decline of Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Marks & Spencer. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

In My View, by Valerie Slaughter

Columnist Valerie Slaughter.

Columnist Valerie Slaughter. - Credit: Archant

Years ago, Marks and Spencer dominated the high street.

In those days, whilst catering for all ages, they were renowned for quality garments, beautiful fabrics, superb lingerie and fabulous knitwear.

When George Davies, the fashion entrepreneur was recruited and the Per Una range was launched, I absolutely loved almost every item produced.

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Each rail had something that was fashionable, beautifully-made and different in design. I could barely walk through the store without being tempted to buy.

Over the last decade or so, the decline of the clothing side of M&S has been sad to see.

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You only have to look at the rail upon rail of sale items to realise what the customers do not want and wonder why the buyers/designers/fashion teams cannot see this for themselves.

The material of some garments reminds me of curtain material; the Bodycon dresses (which, apparently, are designed to make you look a size smaller than you are) just make me feel as if I am being imprisoned in lycra and squeezed to a point where, if I do not remove the garment quickly, I will soon need resuscitation. And the colours; if Coral did not sell well five years ago, why keep repeating it?

Ladies of all ages but especially those aged 40/50 plus have asked, repeatedly, for summer dresses with sleeves; to no avail, it would seem, as the majority of them remain sleeveless.

Many of their dresses are designed with long flowing skirts which end in a point down one side, (sometimes both sides,) and although wonderful, perhaps, for the long-legged, taller lady, they are a health and safety hazard for the vertically-challenged ladies in our society; to say nothing of losing the effect intended with the design.

I have wondered for years about what went wrong.

And although the decline has not been just a recent one, part of the reason was revealed a couple of weeks ago, when I read that Jill McDonald, who had been appointed as the clothing, home and beauty director, just 18 months ago, had been ousted from the company due to her not turning these departments around, as was hoped.

Apparently, at the time of her appointment, the experts in fashion were worried because, although a high-profile businesswoman, she had no experience of the fashion industry, having been recruited- not from some iconic fashion design company or retail outlet for clothing - No! She had previously been the Chief Executive at Halfords and before that at the fast-food chain McDonalds!

I could not help smile to myself as I read this, or ponder on the connection between car parts, fast food and fashion!

The increase in internet shopping is being blamed for the decline of the high street stores and this is, in part, quite true. However, the decline in M&S fashion has been going on for years now and this cannot all be blamed on the internet.

A recent photograph online of Holly Willoughby in a dress from her new "Holly Loves.." campaign brought hundreds of responses, nearly all of them including words such as, 'frumpy,' 'awful material,' 'poor quality.' I had to agree.

I read recently that the fashion director from Topshop, Maddy Evans, has now been 'poached' by M&S to help bolster clothing sales and appeal to younger families. That's the core customers aged 50 plus out in the cold again!

The powers that be in this giant retailer just do not seem to be listening.

I, for one, would hate to lose M&S from our city centre.

Their food range is excellent; their underwear and lingerie are still some of the best around but we cannot walk down the high street wearing those, can we?

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