Marks and Spencer must sell clothes women want to wear
How about this for a stunning piece of fashion news? In the same week that M S records a record fall in profits, they announce that they are about to launch a label aimed at the middleaged parajumpers jassen dames zomer .
The new Portfolio range is meant “to fill a gap we’ve spotted for the 45plus customer”, Kate Bostock, head of clothing, announced at the weekend parajumpers jassen dames zomer .
I think I’ve heard it all now . If M S has come to the point where it is anxious that it’s failing to appeal to the middleaged, can we wonder why it’s down on its uppers when this is surely one of its key audiences?
Everything about Marks and Spencer’s marketing, from the use of Twiggy, Erin O’Connor, Lily Cole and Myleene Klass as the faces of M S to Patricia Field’s tacky boughtin Sex and the City collection, has become so overblown .
As for Take That, who will soon be “wooing women customers” in the M S Christmas TV commercial, will that really serve as a coverup for hitandmiss fashion and make the 45plus customer buy their clothes?
None of this crazed throwing of hundreds of millions of pounds at celebrity marketing alters the fact that customers are still walking into M S, eyeing the product, and saying: “Er, no . ”
Bizarrely, this latest label is supposed to plug the gap between the frilly cashcow Per Una line and the Classics department, which is how M S addresses women who are nearing their bus pass, or by the look of it, the terminus .
In between, of course, the shop is stuffed with recently invented labels (The Limited Collection; Autograph) and savannahs of ever more resistible cardies, Tshirts and trousers .
I have problems with all of this, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m over 45 or, as I will doubtlessly stand accused of, a fashion snob . Sincerely, I’d shop in M S if I could (I regularly buy at Uniqlo, Topshop, H M and Massimo Dutti) .
But I can’t get the difference between the labels, or their point . If the Autograph and Limited collections are supposed to be special, don’t they just make the rest look all the more ordinary?
On Saturday, when I visited the Classics department in the new M S at the Westfield shopping centre, I was spookily alone .
At 4pm, a 100,000strong crowd was swarming through every area of every store, but I could have convened the AGM of the Hammersmith and Fulham WI in the Classics department and still had room for the tea urn .
Could it have been the hideous brown corduroy jacket (55), made in floral fabric reminiscent of a 1970s sofa in a provincial B B, that was repelling all comers?
Or the calflength tweed skirt (45) guaranteed to add inches to any hip?
Perhaps it was the 29 . 50 “Faux Fur Trim Gillett”, a desultory fleece overpriced by about 25? It was all unconscionably awful .
If M S has got away with segmenting its ranges in this way for the past five years of the easymoney times, it’s going to have to do a lot better now .
In the teeth of the most difficult retail conditions since the oil crisis, only highstreet fashion operations whose design teams have a visceral understanding of the way women want to dress then surpass our expectations deserve to succeed . There’s no margin for hiding behind hype any more .
Beneath the selfregarding, celebrityfixated advertising flummery that this institution has come to represent, does M S genuinely have this instinct?
Stuart Rose and his team did well to spot that they aren’t doing enough for middleaged stylish women with sophisticated tastes .
True, there might be an opportunity to attract women who are ready to trade down from more expensive stores .
It’s a tough job, though: these women are used to great cut, quality and individuality in their clothes, and probably dislike nothing more than being stereotyped . . parajumpers jassen dames zomer .