Oct 29, 2020
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M&S won't advertise struggling fashion offer on TV this Xmas

Oct 29, 2020

In a year that’s unlikely to see some of the blockbuster Christmas TV ads we’ve become used to, it seems that M&S has taken the decision not to advertise its struggling fashion arm on TV for the festive season.

M&S's knitwear-focused TV ad drove higher sales last Christmas - M&S

Instead it will focus on its foods in a turnaround from previous years. The retailer once took part enthusiastically in the race to produce the most memorable Christmas ad, alongside big names such as John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, with a campaign supporting its very broad offer.

But in 2018 and last year, it advertised its clothing — most notably its knitwear — separately and saw major success in 2019 with that strategy.

This time though, Campaign has reported that it will focus on online and influencer activity for fashion and homewares with the big TV spend supporting its more successful grocery offer.

The online shift for its marketing comes as it also tries to move more customers online in the wake of the pandemic.

The company’s clothing offer has suffered in the year of the virus, even though its foods meant it was allowed to keep its stores open this spring. Footfall has failed to pick up to previous levels since stores reopened and current local lockdowns have added to the pain. Instructions to retailers in some areas (such as Wales) to refuse to sell non-essential items to consumers in physical shops during such lockdowns has undermined sales further.

An M&S spokesperson told Campaign: “We wouldn’t share any details about our future campaigns before launch. This festive season our clothing team is focused on helping our customers shop with confidence in-store and online, as well as delivering the magic and sparkle customers expect of M&S – as ever, we’ll be doing that through a wide range of customer channels.”

The story about its ad strategy comes as the company said earlier this week that this year would be its most digital Christmas yet.

It’s increasing capacity at its online distribution centre at Castle Donington, and upping staffing levels by 30% in the online distribution team. Its contactless click & collect service is also expanding to 16 stores.

Back in August, it reported a 39.2% increase in its online sales and it has seen over 1.5 million new downloads of its app since the relaunch of its Sparks loyalty scheme in July.

And its online focus seems justified as it’s seen Christmas-related searches up 80% on last year so far. 

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