Cool? It has all the verve and style of a Saga holiday

I CAME to the Guildford branch of Marks & Spencer to save it, not bury it, annoyed that the once-worshipped institution has become common whipping boy for spiteful fashion writers.

After all, in the age of image and hype, enough forecasts of doom can guarantee just such an outcome.

M&S's troubles are painful for those of us raised to aspire to Marks when tackier neighbours were frequenting C&A. And more so for those who depend on the store's bizarrely comprehensive range of bras. Only M&S offers a double A cup when other stores point the meagrely endowed in the direction of the kiddies' vests.

But in deepest Surrey yesterday, clearly the provision of a near-inverted cup size might possibly not be enough to secure the future of the chain.

A store so recently praised for "cool" now seems, in Guildford at least, to have all the verve and style of a Saga holiday. The majority of women (and most customers were female) flipping through the racks were - or were fast approaching - Saga age. Vanessa, on her lunch break, was unusual, being only 34. She glided through the reds, yucky greens and washed-out blues that dominate the store without buying any clothes.

Outside, past the dull display of six identical straw hats and the collection of skirts and tops in "crinkly viscose", she explained why she had paused only to finger and reject.

"There is just nothing inspirational different or individual," she said. After its brief flight on the crest of fashion, she claimed M&S was returning to the old fogy image of her childhood, when to say something was "a little M&S" was to issue an insult. A little M&S equalled the fetching airline skirt with an elastic waistband, and the trousers you wished your mother, chasing quality not labels, had not bought you.

The High Street here is dominated by new smaller clothing chains with soft lighting and music to put you in the mood to buy, but Guildford's M&S clings to display's as plain as Jane and banks of harsh strip lighting.

"I prefer more individual stores which offer a little panache," said Vanessa. "It is the same with all my friends. I think M&S needs to start again from scratch. Everything has become so bland and aimed at an older market."

But even loyal "oldies" complain. "A year or two ago it became to fuddy- duddy, even for me," said one woman of 70.

Lesley Bull, 57, a secondary school teacher, agrees that the past two years have seen the greatest decline. "I am a granny," she said. "But I don't want to look like one, I want bright not dowdy colours."

The old M&S quality, she warned, was flagging alongside its reputation for fashion. Her daughters - aged 26, 29 and 31 - now favoured Gap just across the road from Marks.

But Mrs Bull has not yet lost the M&S habit. "We still go in," she said. "But we come out now with one or two things when we used to buy much more."

For Louise Bradburne, 23, a law student, M&S now means undies. Other High Street stores and smaller trendy chains have stolen the rest of its clothes. M&S, she says, became frumpy just as competition turned shark- like. "With shops like Karen Millen, Jigsaw and Gap opening up all over the country there is just more competition."

M&S, she suggested, should look and learn.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam