Thursday, 10 January 2013

Dear Marks and Spencer.. a plea from a male customer

Dear Marks and Spencer,

I was very sorry to hear that your sales have fallen. You are a British institution and should be dressing a large proportion of the country's men and women.

I remember the good days, when I could buy Brooks Bros button-down collar shirts and designers like Timothy Everest collaborated with you. I remember when I could buy a classic British-made Shetland wool jumper as a staple for my wardrobe. I want those days to return.

Dear Marks and Spencer...

I regularly visit in the hope of finding a gem. They can be found occasionally; British tweed jackets, coats and solid socks and underwear. But on nine out of ten visits I leave disappointed. I'm hoping to find high-quality, generally British-made, goods. Instead I find an Italian style that makes a man look like a Neapolitan wide-boy who's been dressed by his mama. I look for a traditional cable-knit woollen sweater, but find cheap loosely-knitted knitwear. Sizing is often a problem; as I'm a 32" waist and 38" chest, it shouldn't be.

What's needed is a return to good quality, simple classics. See what John Lewis is doing with its John Lewis and Co range (much made in the UK) and its collaboration with British designers like Joe Casely-Hayford. They have taken your share and you need to take it back.

Savile Row Inspired - Richard James - the way forward?

There is a market comprising men who have been abandoned by the high street fashion industry, with its obsession with skinny fits and cheap-looking shiny cotton suits and blazers. They need well-made, well-fitting classics made with natural fibres with a modern twist. They want to see well-presented clothes, not piles of flimsy acrylic jumpers and cheap chinos sold market-stall fashion.

You've made a start, for example, with the Richard James Savile Row-inspired collection - British fabrics and British style. But such gems need to be sold in the right environment, by getting some style and finesse back and re-establishing Marks and Spencer as a quality British brand.

I'd be happy to help.

Yours sincerely,
Grey Fox
A man searching for style in middle age


culverwood said...

Hear Hear

I have had exactly the same experience. I have money to spend on good quality work and casual clothes but do not spend it at Marks and Spencer at the moment. The last time I was in there I had taken a heavy polo neck jumper to the till and at the last moment looked at the material, it was 100% acrylic so I did not buy it. And all that lightweight Italian stuff is just wasted space for me.

Geo. H. said...

And thanks for using the work "comprising" as God intended it.

Nick M said...

Bank on the money Foxy. M & S have piled into artificial and cheap-looking fabrics with a vengeance.

They still have many pearls, but they're definitely outnumbered by the swine.

And, not only have John Lewis beaten them in product, but they are now miles ahead in the "experiential" side of things too too -- most of their stores and most of their staff make shopping at Lewis FAR more pleasurable than it is at Marks'. It can't only be because of the mutual shareholdings at Lewis' (but it might be an important factor).

Come on M&S - get back in there!

Grey Fox said...

Someone e-mailed the following comment to me which I will add as it adds to the debate - thanks David -

"Grey Fox,

I can see why I keep coming back to your blog. I agree with everything you said about M&S, I stopped shopping there about 4 or 5 years ago. Poor quality stuff. I've started to do some of my clothes purchases online now to get the size and quality I want. I will be 59 on the 26th of this month with a 32" waist and would you credit it, a man's shop in the town where I live doesn't do trousers less than 34" round the waist. Apparently, when men are middle aged we all have a podgy tum and large behind. It isn't getting any easier, maybe in a few years they'll see the light.

I visited Austin Reeds' shop recently, to purchase a shirt and a Blazer, I need the long versions, I'm a knuckle scrapper. But they only stock Regular sizes, whatever, Regular means, it doesn't mean long.
I walked out with a pair of socks.

The lady and gent serving me both passed comment that it's a regular ( there it is again) occurrence, they keep losing sales to long people. But the sell long, online.

Good point about Hackett you made, ageism?

I don't post comments on your blog because it appears I need to have a google or some other account to do so.

It a bit spooky though, I almost keep agreeing with you. It's a good read.


Anonymous said...

Yes, tried to post a response recently too and it didn't get through due to the new procedure...


Baslowfisher said...

I couldn't agree with you more about this. Their trousers for those of us with short legs are laughable! Their polo shirts were very good quality 10-15 yrs ago! We could go on.

RG said...


Like everyone else, my first thought was well said, sir, but then I thought, you know what, m&s has been bad for many years, and then I thought, you know what, I'm not sure it was ever really that good, just that it was the best of a very very bad high street. I remember at school how the other boys would take the mickey out of my m&s trousers, which, if not exactly flared, were wide at the bottom when the fashion was for skinny. I recently had a big clear out of clothes, including a load of m&s suits from the nineties, which at the time I thought were pretty sharp but in truth I can now see were pretty awful, poorly cut, fabric which would quickly turn shiny, just not good. And I thought this had been a golden time for m&s.

The world has changed too much, what with the Internet, bloggers such as yourself, and online shopping, for m&s to ever recover. Why would I buy their imitation of Italian suiting when I can buy the real thing from mr porter or yoox, or m&s shoes rather than the revived Northampton brands, or murky tweeds when I go to John Lewis or Hackett or Holland esquire etc etc..

We all agree that John Lewis have done a great job with their own brands, but in part this has been because of a symbiotic relationship with the third party brands they sell, great work by the designers and great work by the store's buyers. And the rest of the store is so much better than m&s, such as furniture and furnishings, despite mr conran's best endeavours.

I feel about m&s that its rather like being in an abusive relationship. I keep going back thinking it can't be that bad, but somehow every time it is and worse and I feel abused and stupid. Eventually one has to say enough is enough.

The food is still fab though!


Grey Fox said...

Thanks RG - a fascinating and carefully considered comment. I agree about the food! GF.

Steve said...

Amen brother....

Disneyrollergirl said...

Hey GF and co... Sorry I'm a bit late with this one but have been reading these comments with interest. Will add a link to this post at the end of the blog post I've just published on a new heritage collection M&S is launching (see link below - hope it's Ok to post). Looks like they are upping their game...

Christopher said...

I hope your well reasoned and accurate observations find a broader readership. M&S went down the tubes 10 years ago. Jaeger and Austin Reed have gone down to the level M&S once tried occupying. Aquascutum were brilliant. The chain stores are bad and I have bought all my clothes for the last few years while on holiday in America. They still have quality at everyday prices. A campaign to get a few good stores to sell what Englishmen want would be brilliant.

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