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What is the problem at Marks & Sparks?

By Jordan Reynolds | Business | Published:

It is one of the High Street names which has sat in towns and cities since the late 1800s.

Walsall's Marks & Spencers which closed last year

But now profits at Marks & Spencer are sliding downwards, customers are not as loyal to the brand as in previous years, and questions are being raised over its future.

In May last year, M&S announced it will close more than 100 stores by 2022, including Walsall's store.

Mark Hodgkiss, owner of Mode Menswear Tettenhall, said M&S has "failed" its core customer by trying to gain a new one.

He said: "As M&S post their latest financial performance results it seems clear that the modernisation of the business has not been rapid enough, product ranges especially in fashion are poor, underwhelming and who even knows who the apparel ranges are marketed for.

"There has been cultural shift in today's shopping habits by the modern consumer and M&S have not kept up with the pace – one issue I feel is that they are trying to be all things to all people and that just isn't possible.

"The whole image of the 'M&S brand' just isn't desirable anymore, in many ways they have failed their core customer by trying to gain a new one."

Mark Hodgkiss of Mode menswear

Mr Hodgkiss has been in the fashion industry for 21 years this year, having started work at Beatties in Wolverhampton.

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He said his business has been growing over the last two years, and suggested men would not "feel cool" admitting they shop at M&S.

"The issue from my area of the industry is that no guys would feel cool or relevant in saying they shop at M&S, I mean who wants to turn up in the office or on a night out and admit that their outfit is from M&S?" he added.

"We all want to feel good and have confidence in what we wear and the places we shop in, we want more of an experience from our retailers, we demand knowledge and good service – M&S just doesn't seem to get the concept of this and seems more dated than ever in our rapidly changing world."

Meanwhile, shoppers on the street also said they would never think of going into M&S – or if they did they would not buy as much as in previous years.

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Samantha Aston, from Bilston, was shopping in Wolverhampton but said she never thinks to go in M&S.

M&S has been a mainstay of British high streets for decades

She said: "I have never shopped in there. I like River Island or Primark or New Look, I think other places have more up-to-date clothing for the younger generation."

The 31-year-old who works in catering added: "I've never thought about going in there, I just feel like it's too posh.

"It's the style of the clothes, I'd go to River Island for the fashion and Primark to buy cheap clothes.

"I'd much rather see a bigger Primark or a plus-sized range in River Island in Wolverhampton then M&S, I don't even go in there for the food."

Primark, with stores such as its flagship outlet in Birmingham, has eaten into Marks & Spencer's market share

And pensioner Diane Callow said she would have gone into M&S years ago and wanted to buy everything but now it is not the same.

The 68-year-old from Tipton said: "I tend to shop online, but I will still buy things from M&S in store.

"I can remember years ago I'd go in and want to buy just about everything they had got, but now it doesn't seem the same to me.

"I do think you could buy the same things cheaper.

"I'm not sure if they're aiming or a younger market now.

"If I wanted a nice bath sheet I would go to M&S, but not for as many other things anymore."

Her husband, Brian, 71, had just come out of M&S looking for a shirt.

He said: "I couldn't find it so I'll have to get it online. I like M&S for my shirts and trousers.

"I think the cheaper shops such as Wilkos and B&M will bring people out to shop.

"But I was just looking in there thinking the tops don't look too bad."

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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