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Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Death Wish of Marks and Spencer

I was reminded of the Menus you are offered in failing Indian restaurants: a choice of 365 dishes inspiring only the thought, How do I avoid making a choice which hasn't been selected for 364 days? Nowadays, the shorter a restaurant's Menu the more likely I am to enter. I think other people are doing the same - it's one of the reasons Thai restaurants have displaced Chinese for cheap eating out.

I was in Marks and Spencer. For reasons which need not detain us but which may become another Blog, I was replacing all my underwear, tee shirts and shirts. It was a big M and S, but the display racks were wedged close together with goods descending to floor level. At one point I did actually kneel to hunt for what I needed. Of course, many of M & S customers are beyond kneeling which is probably why kneeling worked.

I am pretty sure that, once you allow for different sizes, there are 365 choices of socks, 365 of shirts and 365 of underwear. They must employ the Pentagon to do Stock Control. Or not - since the choice is so large, only a few examples of each variety are on display and could easily be exhausted by a single shopper.

The main aim behind these crowded displays of minor variants seems to be to disguise the fact that M & S is no longer the place to go if you want 100% cotton or 100% wool. Instead of proclaiming the quality of their products, M & S distracts you with labels boasting that their things have been treated with  so-called Technologies which will protect you from smelly feet ( an M & S obsession) or from "bobbling" tee-shirts. I don't want Technologies from some Fantasy laboratory; I want cotton or wool.

Products are "Cotton rich" or "Wool rich" or "Easy Care". In the case of men's underpants, "Easy Care" means nylon. Any health professional will tell you that nylon underpants - like nylon shirts - are a 100% No - No. But M & S isn't listening: they are selling Boxers which are majority nylon. Well, it used to be called "Brinylon" in the days of Crimplene, but it's now called "polyamides".

There is lots of other nonsense: it's all made in China or Turkey, the clue to which is that it is labelled "Italian-inspired" or "Savile Row-inspired". It's all bollocks. It's the worst Spin Doctor crap.

How could M & S save itself? It may not - it could go to the wall just like those Indian restaurants which refuse to change. The U-turn would have to be dramatic: the range of choices reduced by at least 50% and probably more. The floor-level racks would have to go: someone should look at how a chain store like Karstadt handles the display problem, using table-top displays with storage of duplicate stock beneath.

And some honesty would have to be shown: this side of the aisle for 100% cotton, the other side of the aisle for 50 - 50 cotton and whatever is the successor euphemism to Brinylon.

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