The financial services business was one of the strongest elements in MSs

The financial services business was one of the

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The financial services business was one of the strongest elements in M&S°s portfolio and the in-store M&S account card remained popular with 5.2 million account holders. ±Clear profit centers° translated into a fundamental reorganization of the business, into five distinct operating divisions ² UK Retail, International Retail, Financial Services, Property and Ventures. For the first time the colossal UK retail business was to be managed as a whole rather than along product lines. Central management was to be ±streamlined° giving store and regional managers more control over operating decisions. Meanwhile, the organization°s knowledge of its customers was to be pooled into a single central marketing group. The new- found customer focus catapulted marketing concerns up the management agenda. The new department would help to ensure: Better communication of M&S core values.
MOVING MOUNTAINS AT MARKS & SPENCER Better presentation throughout the chain, by showing products with bolder, more coordinated displays. Better ranges at local store level with more consistent availability of popular items. Better use of customer information, whether from charge card and mail order databases or sales reporting systems, to target promotions more effectively. Spring 1999 saw the launch of a major advertising campaign to promote the M&S brand values. Regarding the issue of better presentation, M&S had at last decided to introduce more modern merchandising techniques. That year it began experimenting with the low- stock boutique-style displays at its new store in the Bluewater shopping complex in Kent, but soon found that it lacked the necessary expertise to make it work well. There, as elsewhere, stock availability had become a serious problem. Having been overwhelmed with unsold stock the previous season (Autumn/Winter 1998/9) the retailer had put much tighter controls in place, but these were reducing availability of goods to individual stores. Consumers could pick up the jacket they needed, but often found that the matching trousers were unavailable in store in the size required. The company emphasized that it was willing to order items on request from the store°s designated stock at the warehouse or from other stores. But customers were looking for immediate availability. °In the past, if a shop had run out of something I needed, I thought it was my fault for getting there too late. Now I±m not so tolerant. I expect stores to rearrange themselves so they±re always ready for me´ [M&S Customer, May 2000 viii ] Within M&S poor buying decisions were attributed to a lack of communication between customers and the senior managers responsible for purchasing decisions. Consumer requirements and all aspects of branding were being examined by one or another of the 34 management consultancy firms working for M&S during this period. One of the consultancies had conducted consumer focus group sessions as part of the marketing strategy review, revealing huge demand for more women°s clothing in larger sizes. Analysts wondered out loud as to why M&S had had to resort to focus groups to reveal this fact.

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