M&S advertising blitz starting to pay dividends

With an advertising blitz featuring celebrities such as 60s supermodel Twiggy, M&S has poured millions into one of its biggest campaigns yet.

With an advertising blitz featuring celebrities such as 60s supermodel Twiggy, M&S has poured millions into one of its biggest campaigns yet.

The cost of the promotional push is a closely guarded secret, but whatever the bill it will be a small price to pay if M&S finally ditches its dowdy image and brings back the glory days to the former high-street great.

While it is early days, the signals surrounding M&S are the most positive in years.

The chain enlisted supermodels Erin O’Connor and Laura Bailey to promote its current ranges, while comedians Jimmy Carr and Bob Mortimer have been hired to promote its Autograph menswear ranges.

Matthew McEachran, retail analyst at Investec Securities, said the “punchy” advertising campaign was helping to shake off the group’s frumpy image.

But he said the crucial thing was that M&S had made similar efforts to improve its clothing ranges and store presentation, adding: “If products, pricing and store environment were not right the campaign wouldn’t do anything.”

Unveiling today’s sales pick-up, Mr Rose said the response of customers to new autumn clothing ranges had been positive.

Under the leadership of new head of womenswear Kate Bostock, the company has introduced new products aimed at younger women shoppers, focusing on new lingerie ranges and the more fashionable Per Una brand.

Mr Rose also said stores were looking better – leading to an improved shopping environment and luring more people into M&S stores.

Hilary Cook, analyst at Barclays stockbrokers, said the presentation of the stores was a big part of the turnaround and that M&S had worked very hard at rebuilding its image.

She said: “The stores were scruffy and dowdy and they really have brightened them up.

“Marks is in a good position that it’s financially strong – it can afford to say: ‘These stores are tatty’ and throw more money at them.”

However, she warned it was important M&S did not become complacent after seeing some signs of progress. She also believed successful food ranges would help bring in shoppers who would then look at clothing ranges.

“That’s where Bhs went wrong,” she said. “They didn’t realise customers were coming in for food and picking up a pair of knickers on the way.”

Among other changes, M&S has wrung better deals from its suppliers and kept a better control of stock to protect its profits at a time when consumers are shopping less.

Mr Rose said today that average selling prices were around 10% lower than last year and that items such as £1 (€1.50) pairs of socks and £20 (€29.10) jeans were appealing to shoppers.

However, experts agree today’s improvement is just the start of the recovery drive – and that the battle to return M&S to its former glory is far from won.

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