Marks & Spencer plc Definition

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Marks & Spencer plc (known also as M&S or Your M&S and sometimes colloquially as Marks and Sparks or Marks) is a British retailers . It is one of the most iconic chain stores in the UK and is the largest clothing retailer in the UK by turnover (ASDA claimed first place by volume in 2004), as well as being a multi-billion pound food retailer. Most of its shops sell both of these categories. It also has a third line of business selling homewares such as bedlinen, but this is far smaller than the other two. In 1997 it became the first British retailer to make a profit before tax of over 1 billion, though a few years later it plunged into a crisis which lasted for several years. As of 2006 it is growing again, and rapidly regaining profitability, but it is now less than one quarter of the size of the UK's largest and most profitable retailer, Tesco. In 2006, Your M&S has opened a Technology Department in each flagship Store.


The original firm was a chain of "penny bazaars", founded by a Jewish immigrant, Michael Marks in Leeds with a loan of 5 from Issac Dewhirst, a wholesaler. His first full store was opened in 1894 at Stretford Road, Hulme, in Manchester. Marks entered into a partnership with Thomas Spencer who was working as Dewhirst cashier. Dewhirst went into manufacturing and remains the biggest supplier to M&S. M&S became a household name thanks to the efforts of Marks' son, Simon Marks, and his friend, Israel Sieff.

Unlike most of its rivals M&S resisted the lure of television advertising when ITV was launched in 1955, preferring to rely on its reputation to draw in customers. It was not until the mid-1990s that the first TV commercials for M&S clothing were broadcast.

M&S made its reputation in the 20th century on a policy of only selling British-made goods. It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold the goods under the "St Michael" brand (trademark registered in 1928), which was used for both clothes and food. It also accepted the return of unwanted goods, giving a full cash refund if the receipt was shown no matter how long ago the product was purchased. It has now adopted a 90-day returns policy, which puts it ahead of rival retailers, who still only offer a maximum of 30-days on refunds. The company put its main emphasis on quality, but for most of its history, it also had a reputation for offering fair value for money. When this reputation began to waver, it encountered serious difficulties. Arguably, M&S has historically been an iconic retailer of 'British Quality Goods.' Its business model required suppliers to commit to long term contracts solely to M&S. This approach often led to an over reliance by manufacturers on the portion of trade they did with M&S. Accordingly, when the M&S fashion buyers changed suppliers on some aspects of the company's retail clothing offering, manufacturers were left dangerously exposed many became insolvent. This has resulted in a change of climate and no longer is a contract to supply M&S held up as the panacea it once was. Further, the shift by M&S towards the pursuit of profits, has precipitated a reliance on imported goods. This has often been to the detriment of quality, jeopardising a fundamental mainstay of the enduring M&S ethos.

In 1988, the company acquired Brooks Brothers, an American clothing company and Kings Super Markets, a US food chain.

M&S's profits peaked in 1997 and 1998. At the time it was seen as a continuing success story, but with hindsight it is considered that during Sir Richard Greenbury's tenure as head of the company, profit margins were pushed to untenable levels, and the loyalty of its customers was seriously eroded. The rising cost of using British suppliers was also burden, as rival retailers increasingly imported their goods from low-cost countries, but M&S's belated switch to overseas suppliers undermined a core part of its appeal to the public. In addition, as an ageing and famously bureaucratic company, it was losing touch with potential younger customers, who were reluctant to shop with it. These factors combined to plunge M&S into a sudden slump, which took the company, its shareholders, who included hundreds of thousands of small investors, and nearly all retail analysts and business journalists, by surprise. The company's share price fell by more than two thirds, and its profits fell from more than a billion pounds in 1997 and 1998 to 145 million in the year ended 31 March 2001.

Since the late 1990s M&S has experienced serious boardroom instability and has made a number of attempts to revive its business, with only partial success. In 2001, with changes in their business focus such as the introduction of the "Per Una" clothing range designed by George Davies , accompanied by a redesign of their underlying business model, profits recovered somewhat and M&S recovered some of its market share, but it soon became apparent that problems remained. Other changes to tradition included accepting credit cards and opening their stores on Sunday.

In 2004, M&S was in the throes of an attempted takeover by Arcadia Group & Bhs boss, Philip Green. On July 12 a recovery plan was announced which would involve selling off the financial services business to HSBC Bank plc, buying control of the Per Una range, closing the Gateshead Lifestore and stopping the expansion of its Simply Food line of stores. Philip Green withdrew his takeover bid after failing to get sufficient backing from shareholders. Philip Green's offer to the shareholders in 2004 of 4 a share, has been recently made to look feeble by M&S's current revival. Since June 05 the share price has almost doubled from 319p a share to a high of 632p in May 2006.

The headquarters of M&S was for many years in Baker Street, London; during World War II these offices were used by the Special Operations Executive for secret missions in Occupied Europe. In 2005 the company moved to a new headquarters in Paddington, London.


In the late 1990s, The St Michael brand was discontinued in favor of Marks & Spencer.

When Stuart Rose took over in 2004, he introduced a new promotional brand under the Your M&S banner, with a corresponding logo. This has now become the company's main brand in its advertising, online presence and in-store merchandising. The clean font and modern colors of the new image are somewhat incongruous alongside the traditional M&S signage and associated fittings that still adorn the stores themselves. In fact the only thing they have in common is the use of M&S traditional green in the ampersand of the new logo. This may seem confusing at first, but the new look has been instrumental in the company's recent resurgence, particularly with the success of a new clothing campaign featuring the legendary model, Twiggy, and younger models associated with the bohemian styles of 2005-6, and the TV ad campaign for their food range featuring Dervla Kirwan and the tagline "This is not just food, this is M&S food".

"The Look"

A new store format, known as "The Look", designed by Urban Salon Architects, has won much praise and is in the process of being rolled out across all stores, of which, 35% have been completed. The new store designs cost approximately
17,000,000 per store.

Several of the older design stores have recieved what is known as the "Touch of Light" makeover, which is a temporary update to interiors, such as new mannequins, carpets replaced by laminate flooring, and some new decals, to rejuvinate the old store formats until the full new look overhaul can be undertaken.

The full new look makeover is a drastic reworking of store design, including the gutting of old stores, and installation of a brighter, more spacious, modern and contemporary design, replacing carpets and laminate floors with white tile throughout (black tile in Foods) thus opening the floor instead of having pathways, having new contemporary white mannequins in new designs and poses, new displays and kit such as new design clothing rails, product stands (formerly known as "Lutons"), display and product walls, window display styles, larger fitting rooms (replacing old curtained boothes baring fleur-du-lis designs, with new contemporary doored compartments baring black and white model photoshoots), glass walls, till points, and general total updating of decals, designs, equipment, lighting and uniforms throughout, bringing M&S into the 21st Century.


M&S have over 400 stores located throughout the UK, providing nearly 12.5 million square feet of selling space. This includes their largest store at Marble Arch, London, which has around 170,000 square feet of sales floor. Outside London, the next biggest store is then located in Warrington, at Gemini Retail Park.

In addition they have a growing international business, with 192 stores managed under franchise in 30 territories mostly in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East, and wholly-owned stores in the Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong.

The newest store to open is "Bolton Middlebrook", in Horwich,Bolton, which opened on October 5th 2006, and will be the benchmark for new stores, especially Retail Estate stores, with new ideas such as having every tills/checkout point manned during all working hours, new teams dedicated to smaller tasks previously undertaken by general staff, and being the first M&S to open 24 hours, initially just for "Christmas Week".

International franchises

International stores are mostly present in former British colonies and Eastern Europe; The expansion into France began with stores opening in Paris at Boulevard Haussmann and Lyon in 1975, followed by a second Paris store at Rosny 2 in 1977. Further expansion into other French and Belgian cities followed into the 1980's. Although the Paris stores remained popular and profitable, the whole of the Western European operation did not fare as well and all the stores were closed in 2001. As a result of the legislation set in place by the French government to protect their labour force, this was a costlier exercise than M&S management anticipated.

M&S expanded into Canada in 1973, and at one point had 47 stores across Canada. Despite various efforts to improve its image, the chain was never able to move beyond its reputation in Canada as a stodgy retailer, one that catered primarily to senior citizens. The stores in Canada were smaller than British outlets, and did not carry the same selection. In the late 1990s, further efforts were made to modernize the stores and expand the customer base, and unprofitable locations were closed. Nonetheless, the Canadian operations continued to lose money, and the last 38 stores in Canada were closed in 1999.

The first M&S store in central Asia was built in Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1960s. The store was later shut down as the mood of the city turned conservative.

External links

The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  10/9/06 - Article modified by Apparel Search

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