MarketLine Blog

Extensive marketing campaigns do little to improve Marks and Spencer’s sales

M&S’, one of the leading apparel retailers in the UK; clothing sales have declined for the 10th consecutive quarter.  As discussed in the MarketLine case study, High street fashion retailers: Survival of the fittest, this was partly because of heavy discounting over the Christmas period. 2014 is also proving to be a difficult year for M&S; the company reported underlying pre-tax profits had dropped by 4% to £623m (approx. $973.9m) in the 52 weeks to March 29 2014. The drop in profits was driven by a 1.4% fall in like for like general merchandise sales, which is primarily clothing.

Despite M&S re-launching its womenswear clothing range with the high profile ‘Meet Britain’s Leading Ladies campaign in 2013’, the company continued to experience a decline in sales. The campaign featured English actor Dame Helen Mirren, artist Tracey Emin, Olympic gold winning boxer Nicola Adams and pop singer Ellie Goulding.

In 2014 M&S unveiled its spring/summer ‘Leading Ladies’ campaign which again includes influential women in the UK including campaigner Baroness Lawrence, actress Emma Thompson, musician Annie Lennox, supermodel Alek Wel and singer Rita Ora.

Interestingly, companies such as Inditex and Primark spend little on advertising in comparison to M&S and have experienced an increase in sales in recent years. Inditex’s image is mainly transmitted through its Zara brand and the company spends approximately 0.3% of its revenues on advertising. The fact that Inditex has been successful as a major market player without strong marketing strategies and limited advertising spend demonstrates the strong in-built demand for its products amongst customers.

Primark also spends very little on advertising, the company’s target market are fashion conscious consumers that want value for their money. Similar to Inditex, word of mouth advertising has driven Primark’s sales as it has helped rasie awareness of its low prices grow. Primark uses local fabric and buys in volume which means clothing can be sold at a cheap price without damaging its profit. This in turn has caused great interest amongst frugal consumers who do not need advertising campaigns to entice them to purchase cheap clothing items.

Primark also uses an interesting marketing strategy; the website provides an option for customers to upload pictures of themselves wearing their Primark clothing and currently has over 2000 pictures posted on it. Using real life, unedited pictures means that consumers can relate to the images and it is also cost effective; as having a professional advertising campaign can be very expensive once the cost of studio use, professional photographers and models are taken into account.

Judging by the success of Inditex and Primark, it is questionable whether M&S’s high profile campaign will help the company achieve its desired effect upon its target audience, as history offers little encouragement.

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