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The financial services business was one of the strongest elements in M&S°s portfolio and thein-store M&S account card remained popular with 5.2 million account holders. ±Clear profitcenters° translated into a fundamental reorganization of the business, into five distinctoperating divisions ² UK Retail, International Retail, Financial Services, Property andVentures. For the first time the colossal UK retail business was to be managed as a wholerather than along product lines. Central management was to be ±streamlined° giving store andregional managers more control over operating decisions. Meanwhile, the organization°sknowledge 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 newdepartment 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, morecoordinated 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 orderdatabases or sales reporting systems, to target promotions more effectively.Spring 1999 saw the launch of a major advertising campaign to promote the M&S brandvalues. Regarding the issue of better presentation, M&S had at last decided to introducemore 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, butsoon 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 unsoldstock the previous season (Autumn/Winter 1998/9) the retailer had put much tighter controlsin place, but these were reducing availability of goods to individual stores. Consumers couldpick up the jacket they needed, but often found that the matching trousers were unavailable instore in the size required. The company emphasized that it was willing to order items onrequest from the store°s designated stock at the warehouse or from other stores. Butcustomers 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 gettingthere too late. Now I±m not so tolerant. I expect stores to rearrange themselves so they±realways ready for me´[M&S Customer, May 2000viii]Within M&S poor buying decisions were attributed to a lack of communication betweencustomers and the senior managers responsible for purchasing decisions.Consumer requirements and all aspects of branding were being examined by one or anotherof the 34 management consultancy firms working for M&S during this period. One of theconsultancies had conducted consumer focus group sessions as part of the marketing strategyreview, revealing huge demand for more women°s clothing in larger sizes. Analystswondered out loud as to why M&S had had to resort to focus groups to reveal this fact.