Blog: Dean BestBrand believer Bolland hedges bets at M&S

Dean Best | 9 November 2010

It's a time-honoured strategy and one Marc Bolland followed in his previous job as head of UK retailer Morrisons. And now he is pursuing it at the helm of Marks and Spencer - identify the strengths of your brand, stick to them and emphasise them.

Bolland's blueprint for M&S, announced today (9 November), has been long-awaited - and much commented upon - by retail watchers in the UK.

One of Bolland's favourite phrases is "evolution, not revolution" and the Dutchman's strategy suggests that, despite speculation about re-opening stores in western Europe and launching a full online food offer, he has kept his word. However, there is a sense that Bolland has played it safe.

A pledge to help the retailer stand out from its UK rivals with a focus on the M&S brand (he put forward plans for a marketing campaign with the tagline 'Only at M&S') is wise.

A decision not to re-enter markets like France and instead expand M&S's reach in India and China is commendable, if a little predictable.

However, plans to scale back the number of branded SKUs M&S sells and refresh UK stores seem a little unnecessary or carry risks. The retailer has recently spent a lot of money revamping its domestic outlets, while less brands could reinforce the perception that you cannot do a full shop at M&S's stores.

An investment of GBP900m (US$1.44bn) is not to be sniffed at and, of course, Bolland enjoyed success at Morrisons, where he homed in on what he perceived to be the unique characteristics of that retailer.

Nevertheless, there is the sense that Bolland, in his first assessment of M&S, has been overly cautious. The decision not to embark on launching that full online food offer, for example, will concern some analysts.

For now, the speculation is over and Bolland can get to work. But how will M&S fare under its new leader?


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