Moving on from ethnic Indian apparel in my last post, in this post I will write about a western wear brand – Marks & Spencer – one of the best known brands of the British high street available in more than 50 countries including India.
With changes in lifestyle, as more and more women in urban India are taking to western wear, M&S brings in quality fashion for urban Indian women and men.
Marks & Spencer’s heritage
Don’t ask for the price. It’s a penny.
Said Michael Marks, a Jewish immigrant in England, when he opened his market stall in Leeds in 1884. His business grew in popularity and in 1894, Marks partnered with Tom Spencer to start the store called “Penny Bazaar” in Kirkgate Market in Leeds.
The stores displayed everything on trays for customers to inspect. By 1900, Marks & Spencer had expanded to include 36 Penny Bazaars and 12 high street stores.
The outbreak of the First World War and the Second World War, brought about challenges and the scarcity of resources. M&S took to selling more of life’s essentials, including buttons, needles and threads, undergarments, and utility clothing.
When glamour resurfaced in the 1950s – 60s, the new style of dress epitomized optimism and a boldness that was never seen before.
From 1970s to 1990s, lifestyles were changing rapidly. With more women were going out to work, M&S introduced quality, convenience food, like boil-in-the-bag meals and microwave dinners.
Thus, over a period of time, from a single market stall, M&S to grew to be one of the best known retail chains in UK.
Aspirational quality made accessible
Built around the five key principles of Quality, Value, Service, Innovation and Trust, the mid-market retailer filled the gap between fast fashion that was cheap but lacked quality, and the high end exclusive stores.
Besides the quality of the products, the nicely laid-out stores, friendly staff and a really easy-going returns policy added to the overall appeal of the brand.
Per Una clothing range, launched in 2001, introduced young fashion engineered for middle aged women. The label has been my favourite pick at M&S.
Marks and Spencer in India
M&S had entered India in 2001, through a franchisee arrangement with Planet Retail, who operated their stores in India. In 2008, M&S let go of its previous franchise arrangement with Planet Retail and entered into a Joint Venture with Reliance Retail. M&S aims to make India its second largest market after UK. Being its own label retailer M&S faces lesser restrictions than supermarkets selling a variety of brands.
M&S in India have fashion, lingerie and beauty products, leaving out the food products.
Earlier the stores in India offered limited collection, which were nowhere close to the collections available in UK. The stocks were dated, price point was high even for the upper middle class and the dresses were not exclusive enough for the rich class. However off late M&S has worked at bringing down the price and I have found some good stuff in M&S stores in Mumbai.
Besides its 47 physical stores, M& S has plans to tie up with online platforms such as Myntra, Snapdeal, eBay, Amazon to avail opportunities that come with the rapidly growing online bazaar in India.
With Asda, Primark, Debenhams etc emerging as strong competitors, Marks and Spencer is overhauling its content and commerce to transform the company and engage customers, receive feedback to understand their changing fashion aspirations.
Though now not in the top 20 consumer brands in the UK, the brand has a strong recall and emotional connect with people and continues to be one of the UK’s best-known retail brands, on its way to transform itself into a international multichannel retailer.
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