M&S and IDS – two for the price of one!


1. Marks & Spencer (M&S)

This week Marc Bolland, the new CEO of M&S, unveiled his strategic plan, including a target to grow internet sales from £500m now to between £800m and £1bn in 2014. I’m sure you can Google the rest.

One analyst described the review as ‘sensible but a little underwhelming’. Apparently the strategy is to ‘keep doing what M&S does – only better’.

Well I can tell you that, from a consumer perspective, this won’t be good enough.

I am qualified to say this because I have shopped in our local M&S for over 20 years. Indeed, with Paxman-like effrontery, I can reveal that I have never bought a pair of underpants from anywhere else.

And here is the problem facing the M&S brand. Cheap clothes. Expensive food. I exaggerate to make my point but it is like merging Primark with Harrods Food Hall. The two just don’t go together.

With so many High Street stores from which, for car parking reasons, customers are unable to load their trolleys and fill their boots, there is a limit to the amount of food that can be physically carried from most M&S stores. So I do understand they have to make a bigger margin on their bespoke, up-market food offering.

But then, having treated themselves to these fancy (but pricey) delicacies, M&S customers have to walk out past ranges of clothing that are cheap as chips.

This is the strategic dilemma facing M&S. As he is on a £15m pay package, I suspect Marc Bolland is more caviar than pants and will work this one out.

He needs to.

2. Iain Duncan Smith (IDS)

To return to the views I expressed two weeks ago in my longest and most read post – http://bit.ly/91z1vc – I can report that yesterday (11 Nov) the Conservatives made a major PR error which may lose them the next General Election.

They wheeled out IDS to announce the new uncaring ‘claimant contract’.

From a figure of fun as Leader of his Party, IDS has spent years trawling the country and re-positioned himself as a champion for the poor and needy in a ‘Broken Society’ (now ineptly re-branded ‘Big Society’). Two weeks ago, I said I believed IDS to be an innately good man who has made personal sacrifices to help the underclass in our country of which we should be so ashamed.

Now, in one day, the re-branding of IDS has been cut to shreds. What sort of PR strategy is that?

As a brand, IDS should have been wrapped in cotton wool and used to balance out the cruel cuts with his caring message. As a political party, the Conservatives have never convinced their doubters that, as long as the money is rolling in, they give a damn about ‘common’ people. Now, they have played into the hands of their opponents by fielding their one potential Mr Nice Guy as the voice of the devil.

Just wait until half of Manchester or Newcastle have to move to Bracknell or forego their benefits. After all that work in the slums, IDS will carry the can.

Poor guy.

And another thing

On Friday 29 October, I said “I fear the human effect of a keen but over-enthusiastic new Conservative led Government will result, at best, in unnecessary suffering and, at worst, social chaos”. You thought I was exaggerating? Being sensationalist?

On Wednesday 10 November, less than two weeks after this forecast, hundreds of ‘thuggish rioters’ broke into the Tory offices, caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage, smashed windows, pulled down ceilings, destroyed equipment, sprayed graffiti and left ten people in hospital. Fifty people were arrested.

I think this qualifies as ‘social chaos’.

I’m afraid there’s more to come – largely because the Coalition wouldn’t know a marketing strategy if it cut them in the face. Arguably, political ideas need to be ‘sold’ even more professionally than commercial products.

This lot just don’t think things through.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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