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Marks & Spencer hopes flirting with fashionable 50-year olds will pay off

The retailer’s pursuit of a more upmarket older lady will take more than a few fancy images

Werther’s Originals. Comfy beige cardigans. Meat and gravy ready meals. Those funny little pens you get at the bookies. An inability to work the telly remote. Back of a Sunday supplement footwear. All things we associate with those of a certain age. Or do we?

Listening to Paula Reed and her team at the Harvey Nichols autumn 13 preview, one of the most interesting things to come out of the talk was the solidification of transgenerational fashion. The idea that a 25 year old and a 55 year old can wear the same garment or trend has been bubbling under for a while, but it’s now a significant movement in its own right.

On reaching 50 or so, men and women no longer automatically reach for the high-waisted slacks, Queen Mum coats and a Velcro shoe as many did before. OK, so they’re not going toe-to-toe with the teenagers in the scrum at Topshop, but they’re also not retiring to a world of blandness. Mutton dressed as lamb this group is not, as glamorous grannies and granddads have been replaced by a style-savvy and image-conscious older shopper.

Marks and Spencer seems to be pinning its hopes on this customer rediscovering the grand old lady of the high street if what the retailer presented last night as its pivotal autumn 13 is a genuine reflection of what the whole offer will be. Premium, grown-up, sophisticated but with a definite trend slant, the collection looks like a step in the right direction (even if it was worn by 20-something models) but it remains to be seen if the traditional M&S shopper will come back. With prices, quality and aesthetics all moving towards mid-market homogeny, the value is going to have to be incredible across all the collections and lines to win them over. Looks like the marketing and PR teams are going to be working overtime to shed M&S of its current dowdy wardrobe.

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