Friday, 16 October 2009

Marks &Spencer back on top

You have to admire Marks and Spencers, how many other brands can last over 100 years? We have seen the demise of some other very well-known and established brands such as MFI and Woolworths, but M&S are still on form.

Yes they had a few shaky years not that long ago, but they have made significant changes and a back to good times.

I love M&S because you know where you are with them. The experience you get is the one you expected. Those food ads were so inspired but they also work because when you buy it, the food really is good! Statement of the obvious but think about MacDonalds - who are they trying to kid with their Big Mac looking all round and perky on their ad, instead of flat and shoved into a Perspex box in reality?

M&S staff actually appear to like their customers because well….the staff are the customers. The 40 something woman behind the till can identify with the customers shopping for clothes. And yet other brands will continue to try and sell to 30 something housewives using spotty youths (see my Argos post).

M&S are the kings of the customer. They give a proper welcome to customers because the staff are well mannered and helpful. They refund, no quibbles. They are not the cheapest but they have really grasped the good value message with their “Dine in for £10” campaign.

At the recent M&S investor day, Ian Dyson,Finance Director outlined his "2020" programme to create long term sustainable growth. £1bn capital expenditure on IT and the supply chain. Aims to be customer focused, multichannel and international.

For once I actually believe a statement from a corporate person that talks about being customer focused. I think he means it.

M&S are also making changes to improve their online experience so that it is closer to the offline (store) experience. This is very sensible since customers are likely to do both and will purchase more if they are reassured with a similar experience. Also sensible since growth is expected to come from direct sales. M&S reports to have 32 million customers but only 2.5 million shop online. The potential is a further 8 million who shop online but elsewhere.

Finally, they don’t rest on their laurels, at the same investor day John Dixon announced that “customer service needs to be improved” –good stuff, can always be better.

Please your customers, increase your sales, please your investors. Simples.

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