Oh dear Marks & Spencer. Yet again people are turning their back on your clothes and sales have plummeted by 8.3%. You’ve been fiddling with the clothes for years without retrieving your once unassailable reputation for quality and value. John Lewis stole your crown…. and then along came Zara.
But High50 believes there’s life in the old girl yet – if you’d only talk to us. Stop assuming we want to be represented by the 50+ role models like Doreen Lawrence, Emma Thompson or Annie Lennox. We’d rather you spent the money on sorting the clothing out than buying in famous faces you hope will relate to us. You claim to be ‘a democratic celebration of women of substance’ but you’re not listening and we’re voting with our feet.
We’re the ones who have shown you unswerving loyalty but now we’re fed up and you need to change if you’re going to lure our generation back into your stores.
So first – food, toiletries and homeware aside – understand why we’re shopping there in the first place: We like the simple lay out and the clear, bright lighting, not being assailed by loud, throbbing music and the fact it’s so easy to return things.
We’ve always loved the basics – the excellent variety of bras, pants and tights, the measuring service and all the affordable, sensible clothing you provide for our kids and families. Drip dry shirts, washable skirts and trousers for school? Great-looking suits for our sons’ first interviews? Bargain-priced, quality men’s cashmere jumpers? We love all these and it’s a rite of passage for most families to go to Marks & Spencer for that first teenage bra or grown-up suit. And while we’re there, we’ll probably be stocking up on underwear.
But you’ve lost the knack of distracting us with a knock-out bargain that becomes a word-of-mouth must-have. One year it was the butter soft suede skirt; another year it was the elegant cashmere coat; another it was a range of chunky cotton jumpers in delectable colours. It used to be a race to find M & S’s iconic seasonal piece then wear it and boast about it: ‘Aren’t we clever? Such a bargain! Good old M & S!’
But now you’re offering us a dowdy, frumpy, floral or abstract mess. Colours are misguided – a perfectly decent simple Autograph sleeveless jacket is only available in a blush pink. And what happened to your fabrics? Your double-breasted camel coat that once could have been a classic, looking three time its price, is now a sludgy brown, only has 10% cashmere in it and already looks as if it’s bobbling.
As for the Twiggy range – we despair. The shapeless diagonal stripe top that looks like maternity wear, the glaring use of mustard yellow and loud abstract prints – what are you doing? And the potentially pretty Provençal print Boho maxi dress looks like a synthetic tent when on. We love comfort but we’re looking for simpler, more tailored silhouettes that flatter rather than swamp us.
We want our beloved store back and here are five things you can do to make us happier straight away:
We don’t all want to look like fairies on top of the tree, even at Christmas. How much better to have had simple, silver or gold flip-flops than diamanté ones. Why ‘embellish’ a Twiggy jumper with glitter? We think too much twinkly stuff looks flashy and tasteless.
Stop blending. It’s making your clothes look cheap. We like pure, value-for-money, good fabrics. If you’re offering cashmere don’t just give us a hint along with a lot of Polyester. If you’re offering linen, we want fine quality that is going to hang well and look elegant. Your shirts and blouses are flimsy and see-through – a no-no for our age group.
Colours and patterns
Just because we’re old doesn’t mean we need to be kick-started to life with glaring, garish colours (coral and mustard) and noisy prints that scream ‘Cougar on the prowl!’ Nor do we want to subside cozily into old age cozily in frumpy, matronly florals and pussy bows. We want back the classic, wearable clothes you used to be good at and that doesn’t mean just offering up a whole load of boring plain options in black – we like rich charcoal grey, deep navy, chocolate brown, cream, ivory and olive too.
We find many of your jackets too fussy with their gimmicky cut away lapels, belts and tricksy necklines. We’ve fled to Zara for our Chanel imitations and our every day, wearable blazers.
Bring in some well-known designers with flair rather than relying on your own copies of Orlebar Brown or similar. Innovate and be first – don’t follow. Just look at the success of John Lewis’s Bruce Oldfield or Alice Temperley ranges. And H & M has people queuing round the block when top designers create capsule ranges for it. We like Alexa Chung curating her favourite pieces from your archive but it’s not enough. Don’t be proud – reach out to any one of our great British designers and ask for help.
Do you think Marks & Spencer has lost its way or are you happy with the clothes it’s offering our generation? We want to hear from you. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.