Oh dear! Marks & Spencer now has a skinny jeans problem. It was left with a jeans mountain because its buyers ordered far too many of its new ‘skinny and slims’ ranges, but also too few in larger sizes.
That meant that loads of skinny fit jeans were left dangling on the sales racks. It also meant they didn’t stock enough of their traditional classic trousers. In boss Steve Rowe’s words, they got the ‘balance wrong’.
To blame the flirtation with men’s skinny jeans for the fall in menswear sales must rank as one of the flimsiest excuses given by a retailer. Pull the other leg, Mr Rowe.
For M&S to blame the flirtation with men’s skinny jeans for the fall in menswear sales must rank as one of the flimsiest excuses given by a retailer
It’s a hopeless defence, and begs the question of how up to date M&S’s buyers are with their customers’ tastes and shape.
First, how many pairs of skinny and slim jeans does it take to make such a dent in sales? Second, why didn’t the buyers run trials before ordering so many?
Third, despite customers telling focus groups that M&S menswear was old-fashioned, who on earth thought that skinny jeans were the answer to being more hip?
Even those 20-somethings who still wear skinnies – and no one over 25 years should – wouldn’t dream of going to M&S to buy them, unless dragged by their mothers.
Sadly, these one-off events keep cropping up at M&S. Last year it was women’s denim sales that was the problem.
It’s doubly disappointing because menswear – particularly suits and casual wear – has always been one of the chain’s great strengths, and until now put womenswear into the shade.
Being left with a pile of skinnies should be a lesson for M&S buyers to stick to what they do best, which is providing quality, classic products and leave high fashion to chains like Zara.
Or poach buyers from either Zara or Next so they at least get the right trends. Thankfully, there were some bright sparks.
For the first time in three years, like-for-like sales in the UK rose a tiny amount, by 0.2 per cent in the three months to Christmas. Overall, food sales were up, women’s clothing is stronger while stylish shoes are walking out of the door.
Yet M&S still sells too many competing ranges. High quality, value for money and fewer styles is what customers want more of, and the proof is in these results.
Sales of cashmere jumpers jumped 15 per cent for women, and 40 per cent for men. This says it all, less is more and it’s time out for lame excuses. When M&S gets that right, the shares might climb back off the floor.
Willie Walsh is a high-flier who leaves on a high. The former pilot is also one of the few British-based businessmen to create a formidable global business, the International Airlines Group, one of the most profitable airlines in the world.
And he did so against the odds. When Walsh first mooted the merger between BA and Iberia, shareholders kicked up a stink.
He persisted, creating IAG in 2011, foreseeing that airlines had to have scale if they are to prosper. Since then IAG has gobbled up Aer Lingus and Vueling.
The merger worked a treat: IAG made pre-tax profits of €3.2billion last February and is expecting a similar result for 2019 despite losses from the damaging BA pilots strike and the IT fiasco.
This was not Walsh’s finest hour. Two days of strikes led to 2,325 cancelled flights. Walsh has always been a pugnacious fighter. That’s how he turned around Aer Lingus and BA in the first place. But he is not always so adept at PR.
Quibbles about slipping services in BA’s business class are also a problem. Restoring those high standards now falls to Iberia’s boss, Luis Gallego, who takes over from Walsh in March.
Only 58, where Walsh lands next will be one to watch.
The name fits
The rumours went into overdrive minutes after John Lewis announced the sacking of its boss, Paula Nickolds.
With Sir Charlie Mayfield leaving, and Dame Sharon White, the former Ofcom chief, taking over from him next month, the retailer is without a retailer at the helm.
That’s not a good look. Dave Lewis, the outgoing boss of Tesco who has performed miracles at the supermarkets chain, would be a perfect fit.
If they could afford him. Lewis of John Lewis has a nice ring to it.
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