Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

New research: 81% want M&S to survive on the high street – ahead of M&S first quarter results


New research shows that, no matter how iffy its financial results, Brits don’t want to see Marks & Spencer fail. Eight out ten (81%) say they want it to remain on the UK’s high streets.

This rises to 83% among women, and it seems this positive sentiment towards the UK’s most iconic high street brand is felt across all ages: 87% of those aged 55+ want M&S to stick around, as do 74% of those aged 18-24.

Consumers were also asked which product lines Mark & Spencer should focus on improving: more than half (57%) chose its clothing, rising to 65% among women.

The study of 1,000 UK consumers was commissioned by retail marketing specialist Live & Breathe, to coincide with the publication of Marks & Spencer’s first financial results since the appointment of Steve Rowe as CEO.

Nick Gray, MD of Live & Breathe, comments: “Steve Rowe was handed a poisoned chalice, particularly regarding M&S clothing, which is seriously in need of a new format. Shopper expectations are different now; they want high volume, reasonable price and fast fashion – brands like Zara.

“Mr Rowe needs to step back and focus on the basics. M&S is too broad at present and trying to be all things to all people. He needs to change industry commentators’ opinions and disseminate down from there.

“But most importantly, M&S needs to ignore the board, ignore the City – which focuses heavily on short term performance – and needs to show us all that it’s in it for the long haul by going through the rocky years and using these to re-establish as a stronger player, much as Levi’s did. The high street is still facing casualties and as we’ve learnt in the past, nostalgia isn’t enough. The nation clearly wants M&S to survive but it won’t if it doesn’t drastically rethink its approach – especially when it comes to clothing.”

The survey also asked shoppers what they thought of the ‘Mrs M&S’ persona that Mr Rowe recently used to describe his customer base. Although he was slated in the press and on social media for ‘typecasting’ his shoppers, the research actually found that almost half (44%) don’t object to being typecast in this way and 22% don’t feel that his remarks were typecasting at all.

Nick Gray continues: “Although consumers weren’t as offended by Mr Rowe’s remarks as some might have thought, it’s an outdated approach to try and pigeonhole people in that way. We’re all individuals and modern retailers have to understand that. There’s an immense amount of goodwill and intent for M&S to succeed, but it needs to act on that now before it runs out.”