WHEN it comes to brand recognition, M&S still holds a special place in the nation’s heart.
But how many under 50s actually shop there for anything except a prawn sandwich or a pair of tights?
Here Jane reviews M&S’ new range – including this Phase Eight jumpsuit
When I was a teenager, M&S was the all powerful, one-stop shop untroubled by the modern day challenges of online shopping and cheap, fast fashion.
It was considered a bit ‘posh’ (and pricey) but definitely the go-to for good quality basics that lasted the test of time.
In fact, what I call my ‘sheepdog bra’ (rounds ‘em up and points them in the right direction) was purchased from the store at least 15 years ago and is still going strong.
Jane says: “Pricey for a blouse but the quality is very good and it has some eye-catching details (puffed sleeves, ruching etc) which explain the cost. The cut is good for covering lockdown muffin-tops.The jeans are really comfortable and on trend. I liked them a lot.”
- Leopard print blouse, £70; jeans, £70, both Selected Femme. M&S heels, £19.50, all at marksandspencer.com
Jane says: “I’m a fan of Finery in general, but was left underwhelmed by this particular dress. I like shirt dresses, but this one felt a bit floppy and insubstantial for me and the print isn’t my cup of tea either.”
Jane says: “I would definitely buy this. I love the cornflower blue shade and the fabric is incredibly soft. I wasn’t sure if the trousers were supposed to be full or ankle-length though. I prefer full-length but had to pull the waistband very low to achieve that.”
- Blue hoodie, £39; trousers, £37, both Nobody’s Child; M&S trainers, £35, all marksandspencer.com
As a ‘lady of a certain age,’ I’m the brand’s core demographic and still shop there for cashmere jumpers, nicely tailored capri pants and the classics such as a black polo neck sweater or good quality white shirt.
But the dilemma of attracting the next generation of shoppers has blighted the country’s best known department store for many years now – with successive management teams trying, and mostly failing, to gain traction with younger buyers.
Most efforts resulted in the brand becoming a confusing miss mash of trying to be all things to all people and, consequently, engaging with no-one as a destination for that ‘must-have’ outfit.
Even the range by fashionista Alexa Chung failed to pique the interest of my three daughters – aged 34, 28 and 17.
Jane says: “This is the perfect dress to throw on for any event. It’s fine with heels for the office or a summer party, and would also work as a more casual look with trainers. Best of all, it doesn’t crease. The neck can be adjusted depending on how much cleavage you’re comfortable showing.”
Jane says: “The jeans fitted well and were really comfortable and flexible. The top was good quality but, to be honest, I’d prefer it as just plain stripes without the sequinned bee. But each to their own. The M&S classic loafers are right up my street.”
Jane says: “This is a bit of a showstopper. With heels, it would look quite dressy, but I teamed it with trainers for a more casual look and loved it. It looks like you’ve made a lot of effort but is in fact really easy to throw on. Comfortable too.”
However, that might be about to change with the news that M&S is to sell external brands for the first time in its 136 year history.
One of them is sustainable label Nobody’s Child; popular among eco-friendly young people for its range of floaty dresses made from recycled polyester and sustainably sourced viscose.
The other brands being sold via M&S online include Finery and Selected Femme, both aimed at a younger demographic, and Sosander, Phase Eight and Joules which appeal to M&S’s more traditional base of 40+ customers.
Hopefully, these new additions will bring in the fresh blood that M&S needs and, once they’re browsing, they’ll stumble across the good quality, own brand basics it does so well and become a valued, long-standing customer of the future. Watch this space.
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