M&S Fashion: Why Does It Miss The Mark

- Sep 23, 2017 -


From the beginning, when Marks and Spencer sold its first bra in 1926, the brand became a byword for British-made quality goods.

Shoppers fell in love with 'easy-care' fabric dresses in the 1950s and 60s and with its tailoring and knitwear in the 70s and 80s.

The customer was always right, and they got what they wanted - quality everyday wear.

A renewed focus on design in the 1990s saw the retailer scale new heights. Its clothing even graced the front cover of Vogue magazine. Supermodel Amber Valetta was featured wearing a £21 M&S polyester shirt.

And with acclaim from the fashion press came bumper sales. Marks and Spencer's profits peaked in 1997 and 1998, topping £1bn.

But after the magic and sparkle, and despite the launch of a range of sub-brands like Per Una and Autograph - aimed at a more fashion-focused shopper - fortunes began to change for Britain's biggest clothing retailer, and the love affair began to chill.

Sali Hughes, a beauty and fashion journalist, says the retailer lost its crown producing high quality pieces that are key to a woman's wardrobe.

"Marks and Spencer should be about beautiful basics. They used to be really brilliant for quality knitwear, tailoring and good hosiery and underwear. I could go there and know I could buy a white t-shirt that wasn't too short or a plain cashmere jumper that was well made.

"Now it seems the designs are terrible, the sizing is all strange and the styles are badly cut. There are also far more retailers on the high street and it's easier to go somewhere else."

In 2008, M&S splashed out £31m on advertising and profits peaked again, topping £1bn. They have steadily fallen since.

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