‘Reaffirming our credentials’: M&S’s marketing director reveals three year focus for clothing and home

M&S’s Anna Braithwaite plans to build on the “good recovery” of the retailers’ clothing and home division this year and position the business as the home of style and curated fashion.

M&SM&S is extending its attention beyond fashion and increasing its focus in children, family and home products, as the business’s clothing and home marketing director anticipates a three year transformation period to revive the fortunes of the business division.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Anna Braithwaite says: “We’re looking at a three year journey, and it’s about really reaffirming M&S’s style credentials”.

As part of this mission, the retailer launched a new brand platform for its clothing and home division in September to showcase its autumn/winter line: ‘Anything but Ordinary’. The launch marked M&S’s biggest clothing marketing push since the pandemic began, including its first clothing TV ad.

Braithwaite, who joined the business in June with more than three years’ experience leading the marketing of Tesco’s F&F clothing range, says it is “very clear” that customers are looking towards M&S not only for style, but for product curation.

M&S’s product is “genuinely better than it has ever been” across womenswear, menswear, and kids and family, she claims, so the brand wants to ensure it establishes itself as the home of stylish and curated outfits.M&S taps up Tesco marketer to lead clothing and home

“We’re unashamedly that. It’s just trying to get that back across to our customers,” she says, adding that the journey has already begun and is reflected in the brand’s Christmas campaign this year, which is one of the biggest campaigns the clothing division has ever executed.

The performance of M&S clothing business had been faltering for years, culminating in a decline in like-for-like revenue of 6.2% over the financial year ending March 2020. With Covid hitting the business hard in the final weeks of the year, operating profit of the division was down 37% to £224m.

M&S noted a “good recovery” in its clothing and home division this year, with revenue up 92.2% on last year. The retailer credited its successful shift to more focused ranges, fewer promotions and a substantially smaller summer sale, which resulted in full price sales rising 9% on 2019/20. However, revenue was still down 2.6% on a two-year basis.

The company also noted the success of its wider move into third party brands on the clothing and home side of its business, which was a major strategy shift for the own-brand focused retailer. First launched in the spring, the ‘Brands at M&S’ proposition saw a host of labels introduced into M&S’s stores and websites, including Hobbs, Jack & Jones and Phase Eight.

According to M&S, the addition of third party brands is attracting new customers. Some 14% of shoppers who have bought Nobody’s Child, the first third party label on M&S.com, were new customers of M&S womenswear.