Dear Marks & Spencer, Yes it’s us again!
I know you thought we were over you, but those of us who remember what you once were ( I think there are only a few of us left) are still all quietly holding a torch for you, like a teenage crush that never quite gets over the break up. We say we’ve moved on to COS, Me+Em and Finery, but in our hearts we SO want you to come back and pull a sartorial-shaped rabbit out of a hat and provide us with great clothes again. And don’t say Alexa Chung at me, I’ve seen that black plastic trench coat up close and it’s, well…plastic.
OK, so you must be a little tired of everyone giving you advice now things have gone really pear-shaped, what with profits being down around 90% (a spectacular drop, btw, wouldn’t want to have been at THAT Monday morning meeting) but before you sell off all that excess store space that is currently under performing, we have an idea.
Convert them into lingerie-only havens.
Much like your food, your underwear is world class. Whenever I’ve met Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design, she talks me through her range with a passion and joy that is dangerously infectious. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone straight from a press day into a store and bought something Soozie has recommended. Then there’s Pascale Little, head of technology and something of a lingerie-tech nerd. He, too, is always keen to demonstrate some new way with stretch or thermal fabrics that makes his eyes shine with excitement and has me making a note to replace all my tights/shapewear/socks /whatever with his new invention.
All through your ‘issues’ with clothes, lingerie has done well. the Rosie collab (yes I know we gave you a hard time about Rosie not being a ‘designer’) is a lovely range, the shapewear is looking gorgeous this season, and I still love my bad-back bra, even though it’s hard to struggle into it. I’m not saying it’s a perfect range, I’m still mystified at why nearly every bra is padded (although you now have a much better range of non-padded) but it’s mostly really great.
I wandered around the Marble Arch lingerie floor last week and spent £150 on new pants and bras because for once it was quiet and everything looked lovely on the rails. You had most things in my size and I just couldn’t resist. Being a fan of big pants I bought the black lace control pants that are a joy to wear, a beautiful shape and lined, so although they look pretty they hold everything in. And I also fell for the lovely floral lace shorts, which manage to hold me in while making me look as if I’m someone who wears fancy lace underwear.
Think how long we’ve all been buying our pants with you, surely your underwear must be one of the the biggest success stories in modern retailing? You are so good at it, a bit like food, so why not give it a store of its own?
If you had lingerie only shops, you could have bigger changing room spaces and more stock, so the bra you fall in love with stands a chance of being on the rail in your size. There could be sofas to hang around on – you already know dwell time is crucial to higher sales – and great lighting to create a nice ambiance and allow the stock more room to shine. You could add yoga clothes, sportswear and all that hygge-style stuff you already do very well into the mix. Honestly, trust me. It could really work.
And that’s before we plunder the archives a la Chung for vintage inspiration, (lovely archive video here)I’m thinking a The Women’s Room Vintage Pants range, and maybe a TWR range of socks for grown ups, perhaps a top end range of grown up petticoats and camisoles for wearing under all those Gentlewoman white shirts. Just a thought.
And if TWR had its way I’d include more bras like the stylishly simple, trellis lace bra with its nice looking wide straps, a copy of the your best selling bra from the 70s. Just what I want from an everyday bra, no bits of crystal, no weird padding and quietly feminine.
So don’t sell off that retail space just hand it over to the lingerie department and let them have a go at making a profit.