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Kate Bostock Executive Director,
General Merchandising

What we sell

Womenswear

PLAN A: SWAP SHOP

Since the launch of our Oxfam Clothing Exchange in January 2008 our customers have recycled over 4 million garments.
The scheme offers donors money-off vouchers each time they recycle their M&S clothes at Oxfam and following the successful launch we have extended the scheme to include soft furnishings.

Oxfam logo

For more information about Plan A see here or visit plana.marksandspencer.com

M&S remains the nation’s favourite in womenswear and over the last 12 months we’ve grown our market share to 10.7% by value, up 0.2%, as women of all ages continue to turn to us for great value, stylish clothing.

This year we’ve expanded our market share in casualwear, through the launch of Indigo Collection and have listened and responded to our customers’ demands for more versatile investment pieces. We’ve remained focused on refining our brands to deliver the right looks for all our customers.

Womenswear value market share
10.7% +0.2% pts
Volume market share
9.1% -0.1% pts

Year in review

Head over heels M&S Campaign

Over the last year our customers have continued to weather the difficult economic environment. Though they remain cautious about the outlook, women have begun to show signs that they feel more confident about spending on their wardrobes again, searching out investment pieces that offer long-term value, such as coats and leather boots collectively growing by 14% on last year.

In response to this trend our Autograph range, known for its luxurious fabrics and high level of detailing, has performed well with sales increasing by 3.9% over the last 12 months. We’ve introduced customers to the two top Italian designers behind the per una, Speziale label, Lorella and Cinzia de Rosa and produced a new couture inspired collection to cater for customers looking for unique investment items.

However, our customers still want the option of good opening price points, so they can be flexible with how they spend their individual clothing budgets. We continue to differentiate ourselves from other womenswear brands through our pricing hierarchy, offering something for everyone through our ‘good’, ‘better’ and ‘best’ price points.

For example, at £15, a cashmilon™ long sleeve knitted cardigan falls into our ‘good’ pricing category. A chunky knit open front black cardigan at £29.50 is an example of ‘better’ pricing; while an Autograph pure cashmere scoop neck cardigan at £59 is a ‘best’ price point.

Over the last 12 months, we have reviewed the pricing mix in womenswear in response to changing shopping habits. We’ve maintained our level of competitive opening price points but have strengthened our position in ‘better’ and ‘best’ in categories such as knitwear, as customers have shown more willingness to trade up.

Versatility

Women have told us they want their wardrobe to work harder for them and our emphasis on quality and value has served us well. We used our spring 2010 advertising campaign to highlight the versatility of our womenswear range, demonstrating how a simple pair of black cropped stretch trousers at £18 can be styled from day to evening.

Over the last year, products that lend themselves to both dressed-up and dressdown looks have proved popular with customers and wardrobe staples such as tunics, leggings, and casual shirt dresses have been among our best sellers. This year has also marked the return of the day dress as customers responded to the value offered by a one piece item that can be transformed using simple accessories.

Indigo Collection

In October 2009 we launched Indigo Collection to meet our customers’ requests for easy-to-wear outfit solutions that fit with their busy lifestyles and to address the gap we saw in the casualwear market. The new range provides a selection of co-ordinated separates in a soft colour palette, underpinned by a strong denim collection. In its first six months, Indigo Collection has exceeded our expectations and its success has been at the expense of our competitors, as our market share in casualwear strengthened.

Our brands

To retain our position as market leaders we know we must continue to deliver clothing for ‘Every Woman, Every Time’. We can only do this by listening and responding to our customers, so we continually assess our clothes through focus groups with women of all ages and lifestyles.

It is through our brands that we can deliver on this promise – providing looks that appeal to women of different ages and with different budgets. Over the last year we have continued to work hard to ensure that each brand has a clear identity, serving a different customer and addressing specific needs.

Women in a red dress

Autograph A contemporary range, defined by luxurious fabrics, a high level of detailing and sleek modern silhouettes. It remains popular among customers in search of stylish career, occasional and weekend wear.

Classic Aimed at our more mature shopper who wants comfortable, co-ordinated designs for all occasions.

Indigo Collection This new brand provides a complete casualwear range. Myleene Klass promoted the launch with an Indigo Collection roadshow giving shoppers across the UK practical tips on putting together a relaxed, casual look.

Limited Collection Our fast fashion range is always first with the key catwalk trends of the season. Over the last 12 months it has continued to deliver a bold, confident look, which is regularly refreshed in store. The range sells to fashion devotees of all ages, but has enabled us to further grow our younger customer base.

per una This remains our most popular brand and last summer saw the launch of the first full collection designed by our in-house team. We have taken the brand back to its Italian roots and returned per una to its core values of being feminine and confident, with an emphasis on vibrant colour, embellishment and quality fabrics.

Portfolio Now in its second year, this stylish collection has successfully met our core customers’ requests for a flattering, feminine range that was appropriate for their age and lifestyle and delivered a polished look.

Outfit building

Model holding 3 bags from  M&S handbag range

Sales of footwear and accessories have increased during the economic downturn as women used them as a quick and easy way to update a tired wardrobe. We responded to this trend by selling more of our accessories alongside our clothing to better show customers how a whole outfit can be brought together.

Over the last year we have aligned our branded clothing ranges with footwear and accessories, making it easier for customers to build a wardrobe within their favourite brand.

Style credentials

Our style credentials underpin our entire womenswear range and in the autumn we took part in Vogue’s Fashion Night Out, a global event where high fashion met high street. The year also included our collaboration with Zandra Rhodes, who designed two collections for us, based on the bright prints for which she is best known.

We marked our 125th year with our ‘Dress of the Decade’ campaign, a range of dresses inspired by our archives and the styles of bygone years. From Forties inspired polka dots to Eighties power dressing, we had something for everyone – proving that style and quality never goes out of fashion.

Responding to trends

Over the last 12 months we have built on our successful quick response supply base in Limited Collection. These improvements mean we are now able to add further embellishments as well as finer fabrics and yarns, bought from the Far East and India. Collections are regularly refreshed in stores, keeping our ranges firmly on trend. Our regional offices in Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and Turkey have played a large part in this strategy. They have helped streamline the approval process and enabled us to drive product development forward.

Better availability

As part of our ‘Every Woman, Every Time’ commitment we want to make sure our customers can have the product they want, in the right size, colour and style every time they shop with M&S. As part of our wider Business Foundation Programme, discussed here, we have invested in our stock management systems. This will help us improve how we tailor products to individual stores and therefore improve availability.

Looking ahead

Beige embellished jacket

We are not complacent about our market leading position and we will continue to consult our customers to make sure we are delivering the right products for them. We will ensure our brands retain distinct identities, translating them across footwear and accessories, making it easier for customers to find the products they want in store. The investment we are making in improving availability will also help customers find exactly what they are looking for every time they shop with us.

The foundations we have laid mean we are well placed to capitalise on opportunities in the womenswear market. We will build on the success of Indigo Collection, which presents a great opportunity to grow casualwear over the next 12 months.

Tribal prints Hot off the catwalk tribal and animal prints are a fierce fashion trend for Summer 2010. We’ve translated this look across our womenswear range, such as the featured linen Blend Abstract Print Textured Tulip Skirt at £25. Modelled by VV Brown.

Find out more at
www.marksandspencer.com/

Photo of VV Brown in Blend Abstract Print Textured Tulip Skirt

Quality

Speziale Our per una Speziale label is inspired by chic Italian design

Value

Wardrobe Solution Our Indigo Collection day dress at £39.50 can easily be dressed up or down.

Value

Quick Fix Women loved these on trend studded leather ankle boots, a simple solution to bring an outfit right up to date.

Innovation

Limited Collection corset dress This year we’ve responded quickly to trends such as ‘underwear as outerwear’ with our corset dress which was praised by the fashion press.

Value

The year of the leg Hero products don’t get more heroic than leggings, treggings and even jeggings. These lycra-based garments have become wardrobe staples for women of all ages and shapes. Combining comfort and fashion, they are a quick fix to update outfits and form the basis of lots of different looks.