FEATURE18 January 2023

Out of the ordinary: How insight helped M&S define its customer

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Features Retail Trends UK

Research has helped to challenge perceptions of Marks and Spencer’s clothing, inform its ‘Anything but Ordinary’ campaign and define a new target audience for the retailer, as Jane Simms discovers.

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The greatest strength of Marks and Spencer (M&S), widely regarded as the bellwether of the British high street, has arguably been its greatest weakness too: everyone knows it, nearly all households shop in it, but it has historically tried to be all things to all people. For example, around 22 million people – nearly one third of the UK population – shop for clothing and homeware at M&S every year. Some of them, however, do so only once.

M&S is in the middle of a turnaround programme designed to make itself more relevant to more people – and, crucially, to persuade customers to shop with it more frequently and across its considerable range. This has involved addressing perceptions that while the food is fabulous, clothing – and to a lesser extent its homewares – is dull. The retail sector took a battering during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, but M&S capitalised on the sharp drop in footfall by focusing ...