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#ConsumerCorner: How M&S got its groove back

Christmas Retail Concept
By Ciara McCrory
21 November 2023
Consumer Industries
Fashion & Retail
Consumer Campaigns & B2B

Once upon a time, to admit your outfit was from Marks & Spencer would have been woefully uncool. Long seen as the place to go for good bras and bad clothes, how has the high street staple transformed into a haven for the fashion forward?

If we look back just four years, things were not so rosy at the high street staple. The brand fell out of the FTSE 100 for the first time in its history after initially being a founding member of it. Stores were closing across the country and the brand wasn’t hitting the mark with its customer base.

In August 2023, M&S seem to have done the impossible - regaining its spot on the FTSE 100 and securing its place as the UK’s biggest womenswear retailer, with an expected 56% jump in profits.

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the middle-class shoppers switching from Waitrose to Aldi are similarly tightening their Cos belts and stocking up on knitwear from Mark’s. But the seismic change is more than that.

The stars aligned with significant changes to buying, design, marketing, and pricing that elevated the brand offering while remaining affordable and accessible. M&S crucially got to know its customer again, focussing on attitude, rather than demographic.

The ratio between design, quality and value seems to be just right. M&S has successfully navigated the bliss point between established design-led brands like Cos and Arket and cheaper, low-quality high street staples like Zara and H&M.

The casting of 00s it-girl, Sienna Miller, for the AW23 campaign seems to have sealed the deal for the British public. The effortlessly cool styling and focus on the clothes have elevated the brand ambassador piece beyond simply putting her name to a new collection and presented it as a thoughtful collaboration.

Sienna’s debut was followed shortly after by a celebrity-laden Christmas advert featuring Tan France, Zawe Ashton, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Hannah Waddingham.

We’ve seen big-name, big-budget adverts that don’t move the needle but this time it’s seemingly worked perfectly. Sales at M&S have been driven by denim and partywear.  The Christmas ad was so successful that a black sequin dress worn by Hannah Waddingham was selling one per minute after the release and Sienna’s ‘Anything but Ordinary’ range has been a breath of fresh air to the retailer.

Christmas parties across the country will undoubtedly be a bit sparkly-ier this year thanks to M&S, but solid design, fair pricing and accessibility would suggest that our wardrobes will be festooned with more staples from the newly shiny store for years to come.