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One of the main architects of Marks and Spencer’s turnaround has credited its efforts to break the “vicious circle” of sticking with ageing customers for helping to revive the UK high street stalwart’s fortunes.
Chair Archie Norman told the Financial Times that the department store and grocery chain had previously focused too much on its older clientele and not enough on shoppers of all ages who want to look stylish.
“Because the customer base is ageing, we thought we should aim for ageing customers. The M&S core customer was seen as someone who no longer wanted to look stylish,” he said of the time when he was appointed in 2017. Now, the retailer understood that “you’d probably quite like to look like you did when you were 35 or 40”.
Gone from most stores are acres of drab clothes with confusing layouts. Instead, M&S has brought in upmarket fashionable brands such as Jaeger, which it bought out of administration in 2021, and begun selling others including Hobbs and Sweaty Betty on its website. Celebrities including Sienna Miller have been enlisted to front its fashion campaigns and it has embraced advertising on Instagram and TikTok.
For investors, the group is also back in fashion. The 139-year-old company, which has been promising shareholders and customers a revival for two decades, returned to the FTSE 100 after a four-year absence this year and announced this week that it would pay a dividend for the first time since before the pandemic.
M&S shares have more than doubled in the past 12 months, including the 9 per cent boost they received on Wednesday when