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M&S autumn 13 beyond London - the real test

Following the launch of Marks & Spencer’s much anticipated autumn 13, this week saw team Drapers hit more of the retailer’s stores to see how the new, improved range had translated beyond its flagship into the rest of the country – as well as a return to the Marble Arch branch.

A visit to the store at 23 Queensway in Crawely, West Sussex showed little improvement – very little of the new collection was on show and there was no real sign-posting of the new season. None of the statement pieces from the campaign shoot were available in this mid-sized store, although there were a few autumn 13 items in workwear.

The store on 44 Week Street in Maidstone, Kent, was also a disappointment. Leaving the buzzy high street behind me, M&S was quiet to say the least, and although the new collection was evident, and some of the demarcation seen in Marble Arch was being rolled out, much less was being made of the new improved fabrics or innovations.  

And in Marble Arch, once the spokespeople had cleared, it seemed the “full” collection wasn’t quite as full as we’d hoped. When asked for some of the items flagged up in the preview – the Harris Tweed accessories or the top of the line Made in Britain suits - the regular staff drew a blank.

It wasn’t just team Drapers that has been disappointed so far. One source told us she had called into the Leeds store last week to find a particular item that she had also seen in the preview, but also failed to find an assistant who knew what she required and was able to help. “I left with just a T-shirt, and bought a dress at LK Bennett instead”, she said.

Comparing it to equivalent stores on the same high street – even those in the last throes of their summer Sale – underlined just how far M&S still has to go. The lack of background music, the terrible yellow lighting and flooring reminiscent of a hospital are uninviting and only serve to reinforce how out of step the retailer is with the modern shopper. Of course, the M&S customer doesn’t want Superdry or A&F levels of music, but a touch of something in the background – as we heard in Monsoon – just makes the shopper more comfortable and want to dwell longer.

Total store visits: four (five if you include last week). Total purchases: one T-shirt and a punnet of strawberries.  

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