M&S takes design in-house in bid to raise sales

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer is planning a massive increase in the proportion of clothing it designs in-house as part of a plan to reduce duplication with suppliers while gaining greater control over key fashion ranges.

Marks & Spencer is planning a massive increase in the proportion of clothing it designs in-house as part of a plan to reduce duplication with suppliers while gaining greater control over key fashion ranges.

M&S currently only designs 10 per cent of its clothing ranges itself. This will rise to 40 per cent over the next year or so as the company increases the size of its studio at its Baker Street headquarters in London.

City analysts said they were surprised by how little M&S is currently designing itself. They said rivals such as Next design almost all their own clothing.

The plans have been drawn up by Jo Rowe, M&S's new director of procurement and logistics. He wants to reduce overlap with suppliers which are often duplicating work done by M&S's own designers. Analysts were positive on the move which they said was a logical consequence of M&S's plan to increase the proportion of clothing sourced overseas from 50 to 70 per cent. Richard Hyman of Verdict, the retail consultants, said: "This is a big step towards putting M&S on a par with the best high street practitioners like Next."

M&S, which is facing the prospect of a hostile bid, has also given another warning to its beleaguered suppliers over the implications of this strategy. The company says it will not be long before almost all its shirts, blouses and dresses will be made overseas. Only the production of items such as socks, tights and knitwear will remain in the UK. M&S says low labour rates in countries such as Sri Lanka and Morocco make it uneconomic to make some goods in this country anymore.

Separately, Coats Viyella, one of M&S's largest suppliers, said yesterday, its contract clothing business had suffered from tough high street conditions.

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