Cool? It has all the verve and style of a Saga holiday
Wednesday 19 May 1999
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.
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...
£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...
£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...