May 21, 2020
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M&S gets serious about e-tail with new initiatives to boost fashion e-sales

May 21, 2020

M&S’s results report on Wednesday may have shown that the retail giant remains as much under pressure as it has been for some time, but with the company saying that retail has changed forever because of the coronavirus crisis, it's moving fast to embrace the future and particularly online retail.

M&S wants to boost its fashion sales and e-tail will be a key part of this - Photo: Sandra Halliday

And the firm has revealed who will be in charge of all this. The company has just appointed a new head for its online clothing operations with Stephen Langford joining from Asda’s George division. He'll start at M&S as e-commerce director before the end of the month and will report directly to incoming Clothing & Home MD Richard Price, who joins in July.

Simon Wood, who had been standing in as e-commerce director, will now move back to his main role as head of operations at M&S.com. 

CEO Steve Rowe said Langford will be “responsible for driving the transformation of our e-commerce business, helping to turbo-charge M&S.com and become an online winner in Clothing & Home”.

Like his new boss Richard Price, Langford has also worked at M&S before, as the company’s first multichannel merchandising manager in 2006. Since then he has worked at both Tesco and Asda. In the latter role he was responsible for driving “a significant change programme, growing market share and brand equity as well as lowering the cost base of the business”.

M&S’s webstore has been key for the company in the last couple of months during the lockdown, even though it was able to open many stores due to its food operations.

And the company wants to make the most of the customers who might have discovered it online for the first time and grow its e-commerce revenue quickly. 

This will be helped by the launch of its operations with Ocado in September with the company saying this week that shoppers will be able to buy 1,600 essential clothing lines at the same time as they order their groceries.

The new approach is part of the “£1 billion battle plan” that the company has unveiled to get it through the current crisis and to see it growing beyond that.

Another aspect of the plan is adding third-party brands to its e-tail offer. That’s a key move for the business and a strategy that Next has used successfully in recent years and that the M&S rival is expanding at present. While M&S has lost the must-visit status it had back in the 1980s and 90s, it remains a huge operation and the addition of third-party brands to its webstore (as well as to its physical shops) could be crucial in attracting new customers, as well as retaining its existing customer base.

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