Marks & Spencer (LSE: MKS) has been struggling for years. While it’s always been good at selling food, its record in the clothing business has been wanting. Year upon year, M&S just can’t seem to buy in the clothing that people want — leaving more competent rivals to clean up. The effect on the Marks & Spencer share price has been devastating.
Over the past five years, the shares have fallen approximately 50%. Over 10 years, we’re also looking at a drop of around 50%. What about 20 years? Guess what? A loss of about 50%. It looks like there’s something of a trend here, but there have been intermittent ups and downs in between. In fact, those who were phenomenally unlucky and bought in April 2007 have seen the M&S share price plunge nearly 80%.
So what’s the latest M&S approach to trying to fix the problems? Well, it’s going to sell other people clothes. Under a new Brands at M&S banner, the company is going to offer clothing from 11 rival producers. It will only be online, mind, so it won’t do anything to help footfall at high street stores. But then, little can be done about that until the Covid lockdown eases anyway. And if online selling gets a boost, maybe we could eventually see these new brands appearing in stores?
M&S says the venture is intended to “adapt its clothing business to be more relevant, more often to customers, including introducing exciting partner brands to turbocharge online growth.” I don’t know about turbocharge, but I think any kind of charge would be a help — especially if the M&S share price sees any benefit.
So what of those partner brands? In the next few months, we’re going to see Hobbs, Jack & Jones, Triumph, Seasalt Cornwall, Phase Eight and others appearing on the website. They’re all well known and popular brands.
And speaking of well known brands, M&S bought the Jaeger brand from administrators in January. It was previously owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which sadly went bust. The deal doesn’t include the stores, and it sounds like it could be a canny move.
Will this make a difference for M&S as an investment? I’m really not sure. Director of Brands Neil Harrison reckons the new mix will offer the firm’s customers something new. But M&S needs to reach the many more millions out there relying on retailers like Next, Boohoo, and ASOS, who are masters of the online selling art. I think latching on to a handful of popular brands might help it do just that.
Marks & Spencer share price rebound
We’re coming out of the Covid-19 crisis — which led to M&S recording its first ever loss as a public company. And with shoppers hopefully returning, it seems like a good time for a new plan. The Marks & Spencer share price has picked up since November too, for a relatively modest 15% fall since mid-February last year.
But I suspect M&S’s wider transformation plan still has some way to go before we’ll see much improvement on the bottom line, and I’ll wait and see. For now, my rag trade investment cash is staying in Boohoo shares.
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Alan Oscroft owns shares of boohoo group. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of Next. The Motley Fool UK has recommended ASOS and boohoo group. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.