Should M&S Cull Their Retail Space?

October 6th 2016

Should M&S Cull Their Retail Space?

So I haven’t yet read the headline grabbing Retail Week article ‘Should M&S take the axe to its store estate’ yet suddenly I find myself animated in the extreme.  Clearly I don’t know as I write this what RW’s view is and actually at this point it is somewhat irrelevant whether they are fore or against. 

The point at issue is whether M&S should take the drastic step to reduce its bricks n mortar estate or whether they like most retailers should actually think harder about how they get the customers back in-store.  

Clearly like most of these retail execs who come in as ‘knights in shining armour’ they’re in it for the quick win; to make the city sit up and look at the bottom line.  We see it time and time again and the fashion at the moment is…let’s lose our retail space, it’s not working so lets get shot of it, we’ve got too much!

But at what peril to the retailer; will M&S simply go the same way as Woolies and BHS.

Yes retail has changed; yes, we do have many more ways to buy the things we want, be it on line, click and collect, home delivery, in a food hall, at the convenience store or at the petrol garage BUT at what point will retail realise that to get back the customers into the stores they have to make them places worth visiting…

There is just simply a real lack of experience when shopping in an M&S Store.  Its food is arguably some of the best on the high street and yet their success is driven by stores which quite frankly look like any other retail supermarket.  Where does the store exude expertise and where is the experience that makes me want to part with my money and spend more.  

Why have both Waitrose and M&S Food combated the likes of Aldi and Lidl with their own Essential Ranges.  Why not realise that as people spend less on the essentials and shop in the discounters then they want to self treat and buy quality in stores like M&S and Waitrose.

Ask yourself ‘why is it that walk into Wholefoods in Piccadilly and their store is heaving?’  Is it something about the environment and the experience?

And I have not yet mentioned clothing or Homewares.  Needless to say we are not M&S shoppers or perhaps I should qualify that statement in that we are not people who go into M&S to buy and I ask myself why that is..

So on a weeks break last week down in Cornwall we popped into get some food and looked around the store.  Money in our pocket my wife wanted to look at a couple of jumpers she had seen online yet when translated into the store environment the product looked dowdy and poor quality and simply sat there hanging off a mannequin and the adjacent hook that did it no justice, there was no sparkle, nothing to excite and we left having bought some food and some good old M&S undies!

Closing stores in small market towns may help the profitability but once these stores were working and is it simply that retail has got it wrong and they need to work harder to understand why there is such a shift and how they simply fill that space to get the customer excited again to shop there because my wife still spent her money but she did it in a shop that made her feel special, made her excited and inspired her enough to put that money in someone else’s till.

Retail is simply about selling product and creating a reason to shop and a reason to buy and this is quite simply what retailers like M&S have lost over the years and losing retail space will just add to speeding up their demise.

Let’s hope the new M&S boss tries to really understand where M&S have gone wrong and not just think that culling the estate will be the panacea he is looking for….  I guess time will tell!


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