The clothing retail industry in the UK has faced a lot of challenges due to the increased globalization and new competitors. One of the main clothing retailers is Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer clothing company has been started a hundred years ago, and since then, it has been operating across the UK and other European countries. According to a study carried out in the UK clothing industry, it was revealed that the Marks and Spencer retailer deals with around 60% of women and young children clothing wears, while the rest is men’s clothing. It was revealed that women and children clothing was selling faster compared to men clothing. However, in recent years, consumers perceived that women wear in Asda were of high quality and the company sold them at lower prices (Lemire 2010). At the same time, the Wal Mart supermarket worsened the situation by offering consumers value-adding discounts, which were competition driven. This is expected to negatively impact the sales of Marks and Spencer in the value clothing and mid-market-based sectors due to the high competition level.
This reveals that the sales volume of Marks & Spencer may drop in future years unless they follow the marketing culture adopted by their rivals or apply other marketing clothing strategies. However, the Marks & Spencer retailer has over 730 branches across the country and Europe; hence, the sales volume may not drop so quickly. The branches within the UK are the ones that adversely affected by the competitions. However, due to online marketing, the retailers may count down the competition by extending to other parts of the continent, for example to Africa and Asia (Drawson &Lee 2004).
The promotion method on which the retailing outlets across Europe relied was online marketing, which seemed to fail to convince the consumers about the quality of the products and the clothing availability. The Marks & Spencer retailers must address this matter as soon as possible so as to retain its market shares in Europe.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to analyze the fashion retailer Marks & Spencer, by examining its characteristics and marketing mix, while identifying its consumers in terms of age, lifestyle, wants, and needs. Moreover, the paper will focus on the competitors available in the clothing industry and their contribution to a decrease in the retailer’s sales volume. Moreover, the paper will address the economic issues seen to influence the market share of the clothing retailer, ways of enticing new consumers and retaining the existing ones, and areas that should be improved through new market strategies.
The Marketing Mix of the Retailer-Four Ps
In any marketing process or initiative, there is a need to identify the four main marketing Ps, which include: price, promotion, placement, and product; as they help managers in improving the marketing strategies. The assessment of four Ps helps in crafting and planning marketing strategies. In most cases, the marketing management strategies are generally defined based on the goods that are presented in the market. Usually, the practitioners use different ways of accommodating the marketing mix available (Drawson & Lee 2004).
First, the kind of product that the company provides is a vital aspect, especially in marketing strategies. The current quality of the product needs to be improved, as it is one of the most important elements for attracting customers. The retailer has recently tried to improve product quality by restructuring the flexibility and packaging. The main marketing strategy used in identifying and analyzing the various feedbacks from the customers and trying to satisfy the customers’ needs globally (Drawson & Lee 2004).
Secondly, the pricing methods used are very essential, especially in a competitive environment. To the consumers, prices serve as a barrier to the purchase of a high-quality product. Marks & Spencer has numerous top products that were made consumer pocket-friendly. However, due to the current economic difficulties, the company is forced to change its current prices. However, the management assures the consumers that all the prices will be justified by the circumstances prevailing in the market.
The promotion of the product is another vital aspect of marketing. For effective dissemination of the information about the products’ location and price to the consumers, Marks & Spencer needs to employ effective promotional mass media sites such as television, radio or even conventional methods such as flyers and leaflets. In addition to that, the retailer can also try offering special discounts on the product units purchased.
Lastly, the placement is used to highlight some of the distribution mechanisms employed by the company. Currently, Marks & Spencer focus on the retail-based scheme of distributing commodities. The stores are being renovated to provide consumers with a cozy environment when shopping. The available food products are delivered on time to meet the freshness desire. In addition to that, the company is adopting the online distribution mechanisms of the products. This will eventually make the distribution process more effective and flexible; hence, the retailer will reach different market groups.
Consumers of the Marks &Spencer Retailers
According to a survey carried out in July 2010, about the customers’ age, lifestyle needs and wants, preferences and the consumer’s existence in the clothing retail industry, over 49% of the consumers aged between 26-32 years preferred the Marks & Spencer retailer’s products compared to their rivals. On the other hand, 45 % of 18-21 years old youths prefer shopping in the rival retail’ outlets and more so in supermarkets. In addition, over 68% of those interviewed were females and children, while the rest were men. This reveals that the company should mainly target women and children as they buy clothing more often (Lemire 2010).
To meet the demand of their customers and to retain them, extensive research work on the lifestyle of these customers was conducted. It was revealed that the consumers prefer Marks & Spencer clothing products because their retailers offer high-quality clothes that reflect modern fashion and their prices are relatively affordable compared to those of the competitors. It was found that most of the customers are trendy high-class consumers who like to buy fashionable clothes of high quality at a relatively lower price. Moreover, the marketing management team was found to be well acquitted with the needs and wants of the consumers as they examine a fashion clothing trend for some periods before presenting products for the customers. Besides, they attract the consumers by providing a variety of accessories and other merchandise based products that match with the cloths within the premises.
In addition, all their branches across the country are made to know and stock products that meet the consumer needs such as acceptable clothing prices, ready-to-wear clothes, professional services, good marketing, and return policies, easiness in maintenance and free delivery of the products in case the customers are within the United Kingdom territory.
Ways of Improving Sales through Enticing and Attracting New Customers
To maintain and attract new customers, the Marks & Spencer retailers try to uphold four main brand values, namely quality, value, innovation, and trust. As customers are interested in buying products of high quality and good value, the company has gained its popularity in the area. To retain the customers, the company has struggled to come up with a special brand in 2007/2008, which was to focus mainly on the elegance and luxury forms of clothing. As a result, most of the customers feel that their needs and wants are adequately met, and hence there is no need to switch to competitive retailers or to the supermarkets. The retailers used the emotional curve and effective experience delivery history to built trust in the customers. This makes the customers trust the quality of the products, and they end up buying them.
However, Marks & Spencer retailers seem to fail in innovation. Most of the customers and mostly the Middle East customers claim that their products are generally more conservative. This has been reflected in the post-sales services as some of the customers later come to sue the outlet. The company now struggles to regain trust to the brand, which is observed in promotion of earth protection and a green lifestyle in various stores to attract new customers and maintain the already existing one (Drawson &Lee 2004). The customers, on the other side, seem to study the products as well as marketing and manufacturing processes of the company slowly, which may see the company lose some of the customers in the near future.
Other forms of attracting new customers in various parts of the world include launching the EDLP (everyday low price) products. The idea was brought in to the Marks & Spencer management board by Karl Lagerfeld; he suggested designing new products collection through based on the emotional curves and psychological identifications of the customers. In order to maintain the low prices, the Marks & Spencer retail outlet has decided to cut the costs by reducing some of the customer services, minimizing the number of the fitting rooms and cashiers, and lastly adopting online-based marketing of the products.
The Competitors’ Marketing Techniques
The recent years have seen stagnation in the sales levels and profitability of Marks & Spencer’s clothing retail outlets. The greatest challenge to the outlets’ performance has been competitors from other parts of the country, supermarkets such as Wal Mart, the Top Man and J & J clothing retail outlets from Singapore (Drawson & Lee 2004). Some of the competitors and their marketing techniques are discussed below.
First, as the United Kingdom’s biggest clothing trading retailer, the outlet currently scrabbles around at over ten million pounds cost saving as most of its competitors such as Aldas, supermarkets and Debenhams have embarked on a price guerrilla war, leading to a fall in clothing prices in the UK.
Secondly, some of the rival competitors such as Debenhams clothing retailers are offering daily nonstop promotions such as a 25% discount to all those customers going to buy cashmere knitwears (Lemire 2010).
Moreover, In July 2012, Marc Bollard, the chief executive of the Marks and Spencer outlet disclosed that a sudden reduction of the M&S clothing prices was merely tactical during the winter season as the rival competitors such as Aldas and Debenhams always run big promotion campaigns attracting all the customers that want knitwears for the cold season. The inevitable result of the price cut was a shortfall in the profits of the company by 30 million dollars; hence, as forecasted, it is expected that this year profits maybe around 700 million dollars of all operating costs (Lemire 2010).
In addition to that, it was found that discounts offered by the Wal Mart supermarket and Debenhams retailers lured most of the Marks and Spencer retail outlet customers, leading to a decline in its sale volume by 3,2% and while the sales of the competitors increased by 5%. The Debenhams chief executive Mr. Michael Sharp later said that their outlet was there for cash generation and they could not just sit and wait. He went further to claim that a large part of the profit generated went to promotions and rewarding of customers.
The other Marks & Spencer competitor in the clothing sector is the Zara clothing outlet that was founded in 1975 in Spain before expanding to the United Kingdom and other European countries. The company has adversely affected the market by introducing lower-priced and high-quality clothing in the market, thus attracting a large proportion of the customers (Drawson & Lee 2004).
All this information about Marks & Spencer reveals that there are some gaps in the competitive edges of the retail outlet in the clothing market. It has failed to recognize such issues as a trend-oriented mindset that will help in innovation and acceleration of the retail’s outlet life cycles, where the retail outlet can easily identify a situation when the company sales performance stagnates or improves. Besides, the retail outlet must identify the key worldwide distribution, which plays a key role in matching the customers’ desire and products. The only solution available for the Marks & Spencer retail outlet is a restructuring of the business model, which will, in turn, change the image of the retailer before the eyes of the customers and, hence, make customers prefer its products over those of the rivals.
Areas of Improvement in the Retailer’s Outlets and Branches
Since the beginning of the last year, Marks & Spencer has experienced economic hard times due to the stiff competition. Some of the economic difficulties facing the outlet are a decline in sales volumes and, hence, a fall in the profit level. Over the mid of this year, the chief executive officer Michael Collard reported that the outlet profits declined by 18% in the second quarter of the year before declining further in the third quarter of the year by 16% (Lemire 2010). In addition, the sale analysts of the company revealed that the outlet sales may fall further in the near future if the company does not take some necessary preventive measures. The fall in the sales volumes has an impact on both consumers and the retailer. The retailer will lose profits and will still pay unnecessary costs that may be unrecoverable in the near future. On the other hand, the customers may face the challenge of being served with little or no variety of products. The company blames the competitors and the wet summer season for the economic stock shocks. Some of the areas to improve are stated below.
First, the retail outlet should improve the management techniques, which can, in turn, improve the good performance of the retail outlets’ sales volume. Stuff reduction is one of the strategies adopted by the retail outlet aimed at cutting down the operation costs (Films for the Humanities & Sciences et al. 2005). Moreover, the economic condition of the company is being worsened by the fact that the retail outlet had a net debt of 2.6 billion pounds by the mid of this year, which has really swindled all the profits gathered by the company, leading to the lack of funding for advertising in the media (Lemire 2010).
Another area of improvement is the stock quality. Due to the current inflation rates prevailing in the United Kingdom economy and even other parts of the world, where over 55 branches are located, the retail outlets perform poorly. A lot of resources are being driven so as to retain the customers and the market share. The inevitable results have been a continuous loss in some of the branches.
New Marketing Strategies
There are various new marketing plan ideas that the retail outlet can rely on to reduce the severity of the current economic difficulties facing its various branches globally. Some of the tactical marketing ideas and action steps that can help the retail outlets retain some of the customers and also increase the sales volume are as follows (Films of Humanities & Science 2005):
· There is a need for the new product or service definition, which would entail the change of color, package, and quality of the existing product so that the customers and the employees understand the key terms, mission, and vision of the retail outlet. There is also a need for the retail outlet to point out and candidly communicate the intrinsic benefits the employees are expected to receive from the customers. (Lemire,2010)
· The retail outlet should conduct research on the demographic and psychographic characteristics of the ideal consumers as they may have changed their style or got older, hence the need to update the product. The retail outlet management should thoroughly analyze the needs and desires of the target audience and make sure that the various resources and the marketing tactics are aimed at satisfying the potential customers.
· The next thing is to identify the competition techniques and devise numerous ways of outshining the competitors in the market through extensive advertising and extending a discount to the consumers.
· The company can also lower prices on the new products. However, the retail outlet is there to make profits, and thus, the price must cover the products’ fixed and variable costs.
· The retailers should look for the new less costly distribution channels that can tactically help in improving the sales volume of the company by brainstorming the range of distribution ideas to find the best alternative.
The retail outlet can adequately counter the emanating competition and economic issues that adversely affect the sales volume and reduce the number of customers. The above-mentioned marketing plan ideas will help the management to allocate the resources well, devise the best and less costly distribution channels, which will inevitably give the retail outlet a higher competitive advantage over the other rival retail outlets. Moreover, the retail outlet should always conduct researches to identify and fully understand the customers’ needs as the customers may choose to buy products from competitors either because their needs are ignored or because higher prices are charged. Moreover, the Marks and Spencer retail outlet may boost the sales volume by embracing proper management strategies.