M&S at Westfield London has added a fourth floor and 22,000 feet, to now trade from 124,000 square feet. There are a number of new additions (a nail bar in the beauty area for example) but the pivotal element of M&S always has been womenswear and here, the thinking has moved on slightly, continuing with greater sub-brand delineation and a more departmentalised feel. Having been very low key in the past, the business features much better visual merchandising these days and the offer looks much better focused. Nevertheless, there is still something missing and it is hard to see precisely which market segment(s) M&S is addressing.
I think the most notable improvement is in menswear. The offer looks much cleaner, with clarity and like womenswear, has a more edited feel. However, there are still far too many options in suits, shirts and trousers. There is a sea of choice and with no effective differentiation or explanation at the point of sale.
Home looks better and benefits from significantly more space (from 5500 to 15,000 square feet) but still manages to feel fragmented and lack authority.
M&S has certainly improved in some notable areas in the past 18 months. Clothing product quality has certainly made strides. My worry is that the new sourcing arrangements will provide a short term boost to margins but undo the progress made on quality, with collateral damage to the brand.