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- Arts + Ents
Monday 16 July 2012
Sparkle is long gone from Marks
I have read much about the shambles that is Marks & Spencer's in the past week but I haven't seen anything on their menswear department. Being of the baby-boom generation, once I enjoyed buying clothes, now it seems sometimes a chore.
More than once in the past couple of years I have visited Marks to try to buy a woollen sweater. It's always a nightmare.
Instead of all the woollens and other type of sweaters displayed in one place in the store, I have had to traipse around from one part to another. I believe most men just want to get in, buy the item and get out.
I have had a very successful retail business for more 20 years and pride myself in that I know how customers think and I know that if the shops were customer-friendly and not sales-friendly they would do a lot better.
By the way, my wife hardly gets anything in Marks now. The clothes are just too frumpy, she says.
Newport, Isle of Man
Lisa Markwell has caught the essence of of the problems at Marks and Sparks (12 July); they are indeed all over the place in their women's clothes marketing. But where would one go to buy one's smalls were they to go the same way as Woolworths?
At a quick glance around my local branch, the men's garments seem to be of a higher quality of material. They lack the sort of gaudy frippery that has become such an eyesore in Per Una.
I just wish there was some difference in the clothes sold in their rural branches to those in the metropolitan and urban outlets.
There must be millions of ladies, 50 and above, in the sticks, who cannot afford to live in highly heated houses or who wish to walk their dogs in exposed spots, who would love to be able to equip themselves with real Shetland wool sweaters, flannel trousers and tweed skirts without having to go to some ridiculously pricey catalogue.
Some readers of a certain age will remember "Mrs Exeter", a lady also of a certain age who modelled clothes for, I think, Country Life. She is still out there, relying on M&S for her proper cotton underpinnings but yearning for real wool and silk in a size 14.
Surely the reason for the poor performance at M&S is obvious from the pictures you used. Go in any weekday and you will see that 90 per cent of the customers are well over pension age.
Pensioners want good-quality, comfortable but flattering clothing in natural fabric, not an array of flimsy party-wear with plunging necklines and dropped waists in an assortment of cheap, clingy, manmade fabrics.
M&S achieve a good standard in menswear so why forget who their core female customers are? I no longer bother to take my mother there: experience has shown that there is no longer anything there that she would want.
No Olympic joy down our way in the South-west
John Walsh says "Let the moaning end ..." (13 July). Fine, for those who aren't adversely affected by hosting the Olympics. Dorset, whose main business is tourism, with its Jurassic Coast and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is moaning like mad.
I casually mentioned the Olympics at a gathering of friends near Weymouth and was almost blown away by the explosion of anger. Weymouth and Portland residents are fenced and walled off from any areas where they might view the sea free of charge. Residents are allowed to drive out of Weymouth only before 10 am and are not allowed to drive back in before 10 pm, their cars being searched in both directions.
Last year, I was told, residents were being given the impression that so many people would want to come to Weymouth for the Olympic sailing and rowing events that residents could be asked to make their gardens available for camping.
Now small hotels and B&B businesses, which should be fully booked at this time of the year, are struggling to make a living. People who always holidayed in Weymouth are giving it a miss this year. But so, it appears, are the fans of the Olympics.
The moaning will go on, particularly when Britain wakes up to how many small businesses have now gone broke and disappeared because of the Olympics.
Buckland Newton, Dorset
I realise a national newspaper is a commercial business so I'll try to make this letter legal so we won't get in trouble with the Ol***** branding police. What I'll do this meteorological mid-year season of **11+1: I'll cross my fingers for all sports-persons participating in that Ol***** event to win the me***s they deserve, while many of those who don't watch them on TV or in L***** [capital city] play healthy outdoor g***s without wearing g*** or s***** jewellery, which they might lose by dropping them into the grass/sandy beach/water ... Wow, so many asterisks t** (2) thou**** hurrahs for the sp*****s.
So, from now, using the words "gold", "summer" etc could be penalised by fines of up to £20,000, issued by the "brand police"? Can we then declare the words "democracy", "freedom" and "society" finally redundant in the UK?
Immigration is a Ponzi scheme
I really don't get this. Because of people ageing, we need to encourage immigration, we are to believe. This will increase the size of the generation which will pay for the support of the elderly ("Osborne's watchdog", 13 July)
Just one thing he may not have noticed. This younger generation will grow old in turn and will need to be supported: but it will be a bigger generation, because some of it will have come from elsewhere. So it will need an even bigger effort to support than the present elderly generation, which will give rise to the suggestion that even more people should be allowed to immigrate, and so on. I think this is called a Ponzi scheme.
We are running out of space now. We will need more housing, roads, schools, hospitals, airports, and our green space will diminish, just when we will need to increase food production.
A deal for some dairy farmers
Terence Blacker raises many important issues relating to Britain's dairy farmers but he is wrong to band all supermarkets together when he claims they wield their power in a "ruthless manner" ("A pint of milk isn't cheap when it comes at this price", 13 July).
At Sainsbury's, we are proud to do things very differently to some supermarket competitors and the processing dairies. Over the past five years, the 300-plus farmers in our Dairy Development Group have been paid a premium over the market price. This month, in contrast to the processing dairies who actually lowered prices, we increased the price farmers receive per litre.
We did this because our cost-of-production model, something our farmers voted to adopt this year, reflects the increasing input costs of the industry. Farmers also receive a bonus for high animal welfare standards and for reducing the environmental impact of their farms.
Sainsbury's has also made a firm pledge to support British farmers by doubling the amount of British food it sells by 2020.
Commercial Director, Sainsbury's Group, London EC1
Terence Blacker is right to warn that UK dairy farmers simply cannot survive the pressure piled on them by supermarkets and milk distributors.
Two months ago, the price of milk at my local shop went up by 4.5p a litre. In the same period, the distributor, Wisemans, until recently a family business but now owned by the German conglomerate Muller, reduced the price they pay to dairy farmers twice by a total of 3.7p a litre.
That's an increased margin of 8.2p a litre to the distributor in the middle of recession, at the cost of both farmers and consumers.
J E S Bradshaw
So Owen Jones is amazed at the extent of "Islamophobia" (13 July) and would be alarmed if people had a similar attitude to Jews.
Well, if Jews killed and maimed thousands of people by flying airliners into New York skyscrapers, bombed trains in Spain, set suicide bombers on the London Underground and buses, killed a film producer in the street in Amsterdam, threatened to kill and attacked a 76-year-old cartoonist, and plotted to massacre staff at his newspaper in Copenhagen, and if they had a rabbi with a hook who should be deported for preaching hate in our streets, Mr Jones, you might have a point.
But Jews are not doing any of that, it's Muslims doing all that, and do you think for one moment that the horrendous cost of security for the Olympics is because we expect terror attacks by Jews? Or come to that Welsh Methodists? Jehovah's Witnesses? Hindus? Or even a near-spent IRA? Of course not, the threat is from Muslim terrorists.
Yet again we pay for PFI failure
So yet again the taxpayer (via Services personnel) is expected to pay for the failure of the private sector (G4S). As is usual in these cases, we can doubtless look forward to "lessons being learnt" and "mechanisms being put in place", though we will, of course, also have to "move on" (ie forget). I can also confidently predict no financial loss for GS4; bonuses for directors as usual; shareholders' profits unaffected, and gongs all round for politicians and LOCOG bigwigs.
M J Daniells
In 1970, I took our eight-year-old and four friends to Coventry City Reserves versus Man U Reserves. The Man U defence was playing badly and Arnold Sidebottom, the centre half, tried to rally them with volleys of bad language. Then the Man U captain, the old keeper, Jimmy Rimmer, shouted, "Cut out the language, Arnie. There are children here". The bad language stopped.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
The English football authorities have a good record with players swearing. The fastest sending-off was in October 2000. Cross Farm Celtic striker Lee Todd had his back to the referee at the start of Cross Farm's Sunday league game against Taunton East Reach Wanderers. He was startled by the starting whistle. "F*** me, that was loud," said Todd. The ref flashed the red card.
It is deeply regrettable that the City of London Corporation devotes £93m to lobbying for the financial services industry (report, 10 July). These resources would have been more wisely used in funding its police to investigate the criminal elements operating freely on its patch.
Show must go off
Might the "Sparky" who pulled the plugs on Bruce Springsteen for late running be put on permanent contract to cover all the performances of Mr Ken Dodd?
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Hunt's a joker
I saw Jeremy Hunt on the Andrew Marr Show. Next stop Live at the Apollo? He's a natural.
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