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Promotional Strategies Report Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer is arguably one of the country’s biggest mega businesses. Beginning in 1884 with a Polish immigrant named Michael Marks setting up a market stall in Leeds; it has grown to become one of England’s most trusted stores, with over 600 branches nationwide. (www.examstutor.com/business/marks 26/11/10) These range from large out-of-town and flagship stores of over 100,000 sq feet, to Simply Food stores of around 7,000 sq feet. (www.corporate.marksandspencer.com 26/11/10) Christmas is a valued and busy time for the business. The in-store décor changes, new products are temporarily introduced, and customers demand more out of their in-store shopping experience. This report aims to discuss each of the promotional strategies of Marks and Spencer, in particular at Christmas time, and will evaluate how effective these are for the brand and reputation of the business. It will also compare these strategies against M&S’ main rival, John Lewis, and decide which business uses the strategies more effectively.

The four promotional strategies of retail consist of PR, advertising, promotion and visual merchandising. PR is considered as: “The involvement of positive relationships with the organisation media public. The art of good public relations is not only to obtain favourable publicity within the media, but also involves being able to handle negative attention.” (learnmarketing.net, 27/11/10) Advertising and promotion work closely together, and deal with a paid form of communication using any form of mass media. Visual merchandising is the physical presentation of merchandise and design of a store. According to www.promotional-strategies.net:


“Long-term strategies gradually build public awareness and tend to give your sales a gradual boost that is permanent in nature. These include basic advertisements and high profile activities.” These strategies are often accounted for as the absolute success of a company. Marks and Spencer has experienced many successes and failures in its past with regards to these strategies. In 2007, it underwent a transformation after a severe fall in sales, due to the brand having an ‘old fashioned image’ that attracted mostly 60+ customers into the store. The reputation and therefore safety of Marks and Spencer was at severe risk. In order to reach out to younger customers again, the look of the shop was changed. The clothes became younger, and with promotion of collections such as ‘Per Una’ and, later ‘Limited Collection’, the image became younger once again, and the reputation was saved. The layout of this particular store (West Quay, Southampton) consists of two floors: ground and lower. On the ground floor, one can find women’s wear, children’s wear, toys and Christmas gifts, underwear and nightwear, customer service, refunds and exchange. The lower floor consists of menswear, the foodhall, collect by car info, beauty, home, cards and wrap, café Revive, toilets and the bureau de change. Possibly the success of M&S is that it offers many services for not simply the selling area, but also the sales support area. It thrives on its success from the Café revive, bureau de change, home delivery service and customer service. These extra services provided for the customers is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why M&S is still considered one of the most enjoyable shops; we can depend on it for many services besides providing clothes. Promotion The aim of promotion in this field is to promote M&S in the way that the people at Public Relations would want it to be seen. Upon entering the store, the immediate form of promotion is the storefront. It is presented in a very minimalist style, using a simple cream board with M&S in green and yellow neon lights. This promotes a chic and modern image of the store, as minimalist is often today regarded ‘in vogue’. The slogan presented on the two displays either side of the storefront reads: “Don’t put a foot out this Christmas! As seen on TV.” This reminds the customer that M&S has a celebrity endorsed televised campaign, therefore re-instating the popularity and high reputation of the brand. In order to maintain its image as being a fix-it for Christmas, and also to encourage extra seasonal sales, M&S must provide extra services and promotions around the time of Christmas. This way, they can maintain their image as a sort of friend who will tick off all the jobs on the Christmas to do list.


From looking around the store, I discovered many extra services available to customers at the moment. These consist of: •

The Christmas food ordering service (collect or home delivery)

The Christmas gift guide catalogue which is available throughout the store on displays and at point of purchase stands

More novelty items being available such as the gadget gifts and the men’s gift selection

The toy and fancy dress section which is heavily expanded in the lead up to Christmas

The card and wrap department which is also expanded due to customer demand over the festive period.

It is very important that the store supplies the demand in the lead up to Christmas as there is much competition between similar stores such as John Lewis who also strive to offer more to help with the Christmas list. If M&S fail to deliver, they risk losing their reputation as ‘the’ shop to count on to offer everything needed for the family. One of the most powerful promotion techniques, in my opinion, is the Café Revive. This is part of the sales support area, and an extra service to add comfort to the shopping experience at M&S. In this particular store it’s located on the lower floor in the centre rear. The café mainly attracts customers of a 60+ age range, as these people are more prone to fatigue and dehydration. However, it is now reaching out to younger audiences with a new, younger décor and a new menu. Along with the traditional cakes, hot/cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks, the menu now includes jacket potatoes, paninis, open sandwiches, soups and European dishes such as lasagne and pizza. There is also a temporary Christmas menu, including salmon and poached egg muffin, turkey roast dinner sandwiches, and a brie and cranberry sandwich for vegetarians. The new décor is brightly coloured with modern artwork, the staff are mostly between the ages of 18 and 26, and free wifi is available across the café. Visual Merchandising Often referred to as ‘the silent salesperson’, visual merchandising centres on how merchandise is displayed, and how a shop appears when a customer enters. The storefront is where visual merchandising begins, and is very important as this is where the customer chooses to enter based on the merchandise, or to go elsewhere. For this store, the merchandise is separated into two storefront displays, either side of the entrance. On the left side stands 3 mannequins all wearing shades of beige, and on the right, all wearing black jeans and shades of purple – displays are always colour coordinated


in M&S. Interestingly, in the centre of the storefront is a sofa and a coffee table, taken from the home department. Possibly this is to show customers that the home section is available in this store, but possibly it’s placed there to entice tired customers to sit and relax on the sofa, thus cleverly inviting them into the store. I find this a very clever technique. Upon entering the store, there are two large displays at the entrance selling Christmas food. This serves as an immediate reminder and encouragement that M&S will help us with our Christmas food shopping, thus we should do it here. The two displays feature shortbread, and Belgian chocolates. Both are a luxury item, which reinforces the luxurious connotations of M&S food as seen in the popular TV adverts. A sign above the display reads ‘Offer of the week. Half Price!’ This persuades the customer that now is the right time to start buying Christmas food, and M&S is a luxurious and good value company to buy from. On some of the displays around the store, they are backed with posters from the televised Christmas campaign. Here, the element of vanity enters the consumers mind. If they wear the same item of clothing that a celebrity wears, they too will appear equally glamorous and beautiful. It again reinforces the fact that M&S can be trusted, because it is popular enough and powerful enough to be televised. The Christmas décor is shown upon first entering the store. One of the first displays that the customer sees on the right is a display featuring festive reds and greens, and hanging above it, this year’s seasonal décor. It consists of four rotating octagon shapes that capture the consumer’s attention because of the way they glitter and project light as they slowly rotate around themselves. As this is the first evidence of the Christmas theme, the display would need to be larger than most other displays: it has 4 mannequins instead of the standard three, and they are positioned at various levels. Wandering around the store and examining racks and displays, I noted that other Christmas displays included ‘Gift idea’ signs above the cardigan, jeans and jumper racks; and ‘Great for her’ posters attached to the waterfall dress racks. Various smaller props used around the store included cardboard Christmas trees and model figures of Father Christmas. I also noted ‘luxury displays’ situated around the aisles selling champagne, hampers and luxury chocolate, all with the ‘Save 25% at Christmas’ promotional signs. As these displays are occasional, the customer sees no problem with putting one in their basket, because they are not surrounded by them. When we become surrounded by something, we become more critical and choosing. Along with the occasional displays, there is a temporary section


towards the rear of the store on the ground floor containing 30+ glass boxes filled with stocking filler ideas such as novelty gadgets, food packages and key rings. I met with Visual Merchandiser, Katie Wythall to discuss the role of a visual merchandiser, and she told me that there are four merchandisers in this store that work closely together. She explained that there are regular training days across the country to encourage new skills, and that she previously worked in Alders and L.K Bennett as a merchandiser. When asked about how she feels about her job, she told me: “It’s a great role: every day is different. It’s like going shopping every day and discovering new treats!” She admitted: “Visual merchandising is an aspect often forgotten about which is sad because it’s such an important aspect of the business.” She explained to me that preparation for Christmas begins in the third week of September, and continues until Christmas eve in most stores, and although this is demanding and hard work, it’s also: “a very satisfying and rewarding job.” However, it doesn’t stop here. Visual merchandisers are always asking themselves what they can do to attract new customers, what image their stores has that lacks against the competitor, and what new images they want to project to their existing and new customers. Public Relations For M&S, the main source of in-store PR is the

Advertisement M&S advertise their merchandise in-store, online, on TV and in magazines. Their main source of advertisement comes from their bi-annual campaigns which always feature celebrity endorsements. They often use Twiggy and Lisa Snowden, who are both likeable and friendly British women. Stills are taken from these campaigns and transformed into posters to use in-store to promote and advertise the clothes. In this particular store, advertisement takes the forms of: •

Large posters hung around the displays and merchandise featuring celebrity endorsements and the clothes

Leaflets advertising Christmas services and extras

‘Sale Now On’ signs

Promotion signs advertising temporary savings on various items

All these forms take different sizes and scales, the largest form being the celebrity endorsed posters – M&S possibly see this as their biggest selling source of advertisement.


The advertisements used, especially at Christmas time all connote festive feelings. The colours used tend to be red, green, purple, silver and gold, and the background nearly always features a Christmas tree or a dressed Christmas day table. Upon connecting with this, the consumer feels relaxed, at home and they find they can relate to the advertisement – Christmas is a time for everyone to enjoy. It is a friendly theme, and doesn’t alienate one type of customer. Many customers also feel excitement at the thought of purchasing gifts for their loved ones, thus creating advertisements which entice these customers is, in my opinion, a clever tactic.

Analysis against John Lewis Marks and Spencer’s main competitor, John Lewis grew tremendously during the 1940’s, and is now known as a high quality, dependable department store. In terms of visual merchandising and promotion, both shops have similar techniques. They are both currently featuring a Christmas festive décor, and promote this in similar ways i.e. posters, promotion offer signs, Christmas trees and gift idea signs. However, M&S have invested more in the rotating decorations, whereas John Lewis has stayed with traditional tinsel and fairy lights. This makes M&S more memorable. The store layout of both shops is also similar. Both consist of two floors, the upper comprising of women’s wear and underwear, and the lower consisting of menswear and home/beauty. This is possibly due to the fact that customers now want to automatically know where their desired item is upon entering the store, we as humans don’t like to search for something that we know we want. Therefore, shops try to keep to similar layouts to make the shopping experience less stressful and less time consuming.


Promotional Strategies Report