An Open Letter to Marks & Spencer

I am always saddened by the downfall of a once-storied fashion giant. Department stores are suffering these days, there's no denying it. But this article that I found today in the Telegraph was not only well-timed, but right on the mark. prompted me to write one of my unsolicited open fashion letters to no one....and everyone. Click here to read the article.

Dear M&S,

I was just in your Stirling shop today, and was flooded with the same feelings I always am when I am in one of your shops: firstly, that at age 41 I am still way too young to be shopping there, and secondly, that you are selling the same, cut-rate, throwaway merchandise that the rest of the high street is selling. The racks and racks of black unlined polyester slacks and skirts I encountered near the door made me just about lose the will to live, let alone shop. And I don't even want to talk about the shoe selection. Okay, maybe for a minute. The words "clunky", "cheap", and "cankles" all sprang to mind. These shoes are discernable even by their sound on the tile shop floor...the sound of inflexible plastic soles meeting a hard surface.

I have lived in the UK for 6 years and have only ever bought underwear in M&S, which like the article says, is your strongest offering at present. M&S have forgotten that a significant representation of us know and care what good quality, design, and fabrication is. Your fabrics are very obviously cut rate (some of your cashmere is ok....just ok) and from a design standpoint...well, the fashion situation there is DIRE. If you're listening, and I hope you are, take a step back and figure out what you want to be before it is indeed too late. I (and undoubtedly others like me) would love to see real fabrics, linings...less "stuff" on the sales floor and more fashion. You could pretty much half the size of your shop, fill it with quality, and likely attract fresh blood...even if the average price point was just a bit higher.

Bring on some young designers with ideas on how to spin the beloved British Traditional ethos into something marketable that still stands for quality. You might ask Ralph Lauren for advice...he did it for us "Yanks" all those years ago, and seems to have worked well for him. Try some capsule collections (take a page out of H&M or US retailer Target's book on this one). Make the inside your stores a little less reminiscent of an ASDA or Tesco, and more like a place a gal with style might want to buy a cashmere jumper or a tweed jacket. (Then sell some REAL cashmere jumpers and tweed jackets, for goodness sakes).

Today, I went to EVERY shop on high street looking for a traditional merino or lambswool jumper, and did not find ONE. Not a single one. Here is your opportunity. You are a heartbeat away from extinction, and it is sad for such a storied institution. Anyway, drop me a line if you want ideas from an erstwhile style blogger as to how win back the style savvy 30-50 year old gals who you are currently (unwittingly) turning-away in droves!

Love, Respact, and More Than a Bit of Worry,
The Highland Fashionista


  1. I was just sitting here wondering if I had gone to M&S in Stirling last year...and it dawned on me, looking back, I thought I was in Tesco! You are right on the money. Let's hope they get many letters like this and make some changes.

  2. I've only ever visited the M&S store on the Champs Elysee in Paris, and must say I came away totally unimpressed. All of the clothes seemed so "mumsy" as the British say. The tiny food section was packed to the rafters though, with a line halfway out to the front door.

    1. The food halls are their main focus these days, and it is glaringly apparent in everything from the decor to the advertising budget. Walking into the food part of an M&S is like the scene from the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door after the twister and suddenly everything is in color. Plus, you can get whole food salads that are vegan, a plus for travellers like me....vegan fare is hard to come by here in the Highlands. you just have to avert your eyes while you walk through the clothing part of the shop to get there.

    2. The thing about M&S was that it was so reliable. Not exciting, but reliable. You needed a black wool jumper, you went to the jumper section, chose your style, picked up your size, off to the till and on your way. Job done. And the quality was such that this foray would leave you sorted, black jumperwise, for a couple of years.

      They didn't even have fitting rooms, back in the day, but you could be confident that their sizing was true. Now their sizes are all over the place, their jumpers are all over the place - thanks to their creation of Per Una, Limited, Portfolio, Classic, and other 'brands' - and finding that simple black sweater becomes a daunting task.

      Now a feeling of gloom overcomes me whenever I enter my local (flagship) store. You are so right about the Tesco analogy - the music, the lighting, the layout. It's not conducive to either a leisurely browse or a quick trip to pick up a pair of pants. The colours are horrible, the fabrics are horrible, the place is horrible.

      It's a bit like seeing a dear old friend suddenly dyeing her hair green, cropping her skirts and taking up with a succession of rackety toyboys - if you felt that it was all working out for her then hooray, but somehow you sense desperation rather than elation.

    3. Exactly. I was in there again today looking for a simple black belt to hold up my snowboard trousers, and because of their (half-assed) efforts at multiple branding, you cannot just go to the "belt" department, as they are scattered about hither and yon in an attempt at styling, creating impulse buy areas (as if), and goodness knows for whatever other reasons. Left empty handed. Again. .


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