Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Proof That M&S Is Just Pants; EVENING STANDARD DISCOVERS SALES OF THE AUTOGRAPH RANGE HAVE FLOPPED

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Proof That M&S Is Just Pants; EVENING STANDARD DISCOVERS SALES OF THE AUTOGRAPH RANGE HAVE FLOPPED

Article excerpt

Byline: FIONA WALSH;ED HARRIS

HAVING recruited fashionable designers including Hussein Chalayan and Julien Macdonald to add some much-needed glamour to its clothing range, Marks & Spencer must have thought it would at last be rid of its bras and pants image.

These two and other hot design names such as Timothy Everest - the tailor who has dressed Tom Cruise and David Beckham, brought in to pep up M&S's mens' suits - must have seemed just the people to save a retailer with a tricky image problem.

Yet despite the glittering array of talent at its disposal, the troubled high street giant has failed to halt the slide. Sales of its designer range, Autograph, continue to fall below the company's expectations, with the womenswear side missing its sales target by as much as 22 per cent last month.

Internal figures seen by Business Day, the Evening Standard's financial pages, show that Autograph womenswear sales totalled [pound]1 million in the four weeks to 24 February - some [pound]300,000 short of M&S's estimate. Menswear performed better, but still missed its targets. It was all meant to be so different. Perhaps stung by adjectives like "dowdy" and unfashionable", Britain's most traditional clothing store decided to go couture.

But has M&S aimed too high? Would shoppers accustomed to nipping in to Marks for a [pound]70 jacket or a suit for less than [pound]150 really splash out [pound]350 on a turquoise leather jacket? Or an autumn collection leather dress at [pound]450? Or knee-length leather boots for [pound]200?

At the Kensington store today, some delivered their verdict. "The prices are over the top for a high street store," said classroom assistant Gail Rezvani. "If I wanted designer label garments, I would go to a designer store."

Picture researcher Deborah Brown from Islington said: "For the prices you are paying you may as well buy the real thing and go to a designer store.

There is a stigma attached to buying stuff from M&S. …

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