Marks & Spencer set about pricking the collective conscience of UK shoppers today by launching a major advertising campaign about how it sourced its products.
M&S said window displays in more than 420 stores would tap into demand from consumers for ethically traded products as well as providing information on health and quality.
The campaign – entitled ‘Look behind the Label’ – will be backed up by advertisements in the national press and comes in the wake of a positive Christmas performance that confirmed the high street icon had re-engaged with its customers.
M&S will become the first UK retailer to sell clothing made entirely from cotton approved by the Fairtrade Foundation, which ensures that farmers in poor countries get a fair price for their produce.
Stores will begin stocking T-shirts and socks with the Fairtrade logo from March, while such items will also be available to buy online.
In food, M&S pledged to continue cutting salt from its produce and said around 250 tonnes of the flavouring had been removed from its ranges in the past year.
Chief executive Stuart Rose said: “Customers want good value, but they care more than ever how food and clothing products are made.
“’Look behind the label’ is the first time we’ve talked about the lengths we go to ensure everything we sell is produced in a responsible way.
“Our customers increasingly want to know about this, which is why we’ve decided to tell them what we stand for.”
The new campaign will feature slogans such as “We’re committed to reducing salt faster than you can say ‘sodium chloride”’ and “It’s not just our green dyes that won’t harm the environment”.
It comes after a survey commissioned by M&S revealed that nearly a third of shoppers had put an item of clothing back on the rails because of concerns about its origins.
Three in every five shoppers had avoided buying food because of fears about where it had come from or under what conditions it had been made.
The poll said 78% wanted to know more about the way clothes were made, including the conditions in the factories where they come from and the use of chemicals.
M&S hopes the campaign will match the success of its advertising for its autumn clothing ranges that featured Sixties supermodel Twiggy. Comedians Jimmy Carr and Bob Mortimer were also hired to promote the Autograph menswear ranges.
The autumn adverts coincided with M&S’s first quarterly sales rise in two years, with one commentator praising Twiggy as “the understated centrepiece of the current turnaround in Marks and Spencer’s fortune”.