Per Una Brand at Marks & Spenser
Given the global economic condition of tightening credit and its immediate effect on retailing, Marks & Spencer (M&S) has taken a strategy of promoting its more popular brands more aggressively than ever. The strategy M&S is pursuing specifically focuses on the Per Una brand, a critical line that contributes Â£500m or 6% of total Marks & Spenser sales on a consistent yearly basis, and is a cornerstone of the women’s wear segment that generated Â£2bn in 2007 for the entire chain (Cavazza, 2007). Despite the dominance of the Per Una brand there continues to be a slowdown in spending with regard to all of retailing, which is indicative of the broader global recession (Guthrie, 2008). Despite the global economic conditions however, lingerie sales grew 26.7% for M&S in 2007, which indicates how effective the retailer has been in countering the broader trends in the external marketing environment (Townsend, 2007).
Assessing the External Marketing Environment
The following are the key marketing environmental factors impacting M&S in general and the Per Una brand specifically. First, the economic slowdown of the last eighteen to twenty-four months has further accentuated how concentrated the retailing marketing reach of M&S is today, with 92.9% of total revenues generated from the UK during fiscal 2007 (Guthrie, 2008). This has become a competitive disadvantage to M&S as Tesco, Wal-Mart and mass merchandisers are using multi-channel based approaches to gain greater sales in adjacent nations tot the UK. The reliance on Internet-based marketing including targeted e-mail campaigns and analysis of click-stream data from website visitors showing interest in the Per Una brand has worked to counter this trend, yet the broader competitive environment is nurturing a price war throughout the UK retailing environment. It is critical for M&S to continue selling on the uniqueness and quality of its products including the Per Una brand, and not compete in the price wars that are beginning to dominate UK-based retailing.
A second marketing environmental factor that is influencing the sales of the Per Una brand continues to be the lack of online transactions, which have become all the more important given the current economic conditions impacting retailing globally. M&S has kept with their policy of not taking orders online from overseas, a strategy decision that has left the Middle East and Asia wide open for Harrods Online, an online initiative from one of their closest competitors aimed at upper income consumers in these two regions of the world. The global online marketplace is one that represents a significant opportunity for M&S with the Per Una brand, yet the retailer is reticent to move away from Royal Mail and White Arrow courier services. To capitalize on the unmet needs of higher-income consumers in the Middle East and Asia, M&S must create a more aggressive shipping and logistics program to support the sales of the Per Una brand throughout these regions of the world. Global competition online for lingerie and woman’s wear is forcing the urgency of this issue for M&S general management today.
A third marketing environmental factor that M&S must concentrate on with regard to the primary customer segments who purchase the Per Una brand of lingerie and women’s wear are the environmental “green” initiatives and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that Per Una and its supply chain partners also adhere to. The more environmentally conscious the consumer the more critical will be the messaging surrounding sustainability and demonstrated adherence to green initiatives and active, forward-thinking CSR programs. In the apparel industry the reliance on child labor has been pervasive, and it is essential that Per Una be very clear that this environmental factor is never associated with their brand. The best strategy for this broader marketing environment factor is to be transparent and accountable throughout their entire supply chain. By doing this they will win a high level of credibility and trust with their target markets.
The marketing environment for M&S in general and Per Una brand continues to be challenging, primarily due to the credit crisis impacting global retailing today. Yet despite the financial crisis impacting many nations’ economies today, Per Una continues to grow sales by concentrating on a differentiated brand messaging strategy, the evolving use of the Internet as a channel which needs much more attention from M&S strategically, and the growing requirement of consumers for apparel manufacturers to have active CSR programs in place.
Manfreda Cavazza 2007. M&S blooms as Rose wins women’s vote. McClatchy – Tribune Business News May 23
1. http://www.proquest.com (Accessed November 10, 2008).
Jonathan Guthrie 2008. First the credit crisis, now the fashion crisis:[LONDON 1ST EDITION]. Financial Times, February 14, http://www.proquest.com (Accessed November 10, 2008).
Abigail Townsend 2007. Riders on the storm. The Business, July 14, http://www.proquest.com (Accessed November 10, 2008).