Green takes on M&S with autumn collection campaign

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The Independent Online

Philip Green launched the first prong of his autumn offensive against Marks & Spencer yesterday as he insisted his aborted £9bn bid for the retailer was "very much history".

Philip Green launched the first prong of his autumn offensive against Marks & Spencer yesterday as he insisted his aborted £9bn bid for the retailer was "very much history".

The retail billionaire unveiled the first ever television advertising campaign for Dorothy Perkins in an attempt to woo shoppers back to Top Shop's hitherto dowdier elder sister.

The campaign, to be backed up in the press, depicts more fashionable clothing than Dorothy Perkins has offered for some time.

Although Mr Green was loath to admit it, putting the fashion back into "Dotty P" is part of his campaign to eat into M&S's customer base on all fronts. Next week he will spell out his plans for Bhs, which competes more directly with M&S. "There will be some fairly major changes there," he promised, including a second television advertising campaign.

M&S launched its own more fashion-focused womenswear range at the weekend - the Limited Collection - which is being promoted by the supermodel Helena Christensen.

Despite claiming his initiatives at Dorothy Perkins and Bhs were "not on the back of not buying M&S", Mr Green barely missed an opportunity to have a dig at the troubled retailer yesterday. Speaking after the Dorothy Perkins' fashion show, he said: "We're into evolution, they [M&S] need a real revolution. It's a very different place."

Mr Green hit back at critics who maintain that his success is based on slashing costs, saying he had doubled his investment in Dorothy Perkins to £10m last year. He said the new television ad campaign, which launches later this month, would be funded out of Arcadia's £35m marketing budget. Both campaigns have been timed to dovetail with M&S's new "Your M&S" advertising campaign, which is being rolled out across its estate.

Arcadia is on track to open 500,000 sq ft of new trading space - including 58 solo stores - across its eight brands this year.

Asked how his businesses had fared over the summer, which saw retailers endure their worst July for nearly two years according to official figures, Mr Green said: "There wasn't anything fantastic; there wasn't anything disastrous. Whether we like it or not the weather is a factor. The middle market gets tougher when we don't get the right weather conditions."

Retail analysts downplayed the likely effect of Mr Green's initiatives on M&S's sales. One said: "It's not Philip's style to go on a big investment campaign. We won't necessarily see a massive step change in M&S's competitive situation."

Mr Green admitted the group was going to "have to trade our socks off" to cope with the most "competitive cycle" the high street has been in. "There is nothing new to competition. As far as I'm concerned, whatever we were contemplating doing is very much history," he added.

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