M&S (MKS.L) will now sell clothes of 11 rival brands on its website in an attempt to “turbocharge” online shopping.
This comes as the pandemic has hit the retail sector hard and consumers are increasingly turning to e-commerce.
The venture is called ‘Brands at M&S’ and is part of the company’s newly formed MS2 division.
M&S has traditionally struggled with its clothing range. The latest move is part of the company's initiative to “adapt its clothing business to be more relevant, more often to customers, including introducing exciting partner brands to turbocharge online growth.”
Coming online over the next three months, products by Hobbs, Jack & Jones, Joules, Phase Eight, Seasalt Cornwall, Selected Homme and Femme, Sloggi, Sosandar, Triumph, White Stuff and Y.A.S. will be sold alongside M&S’s in-house brands Autograph, Goodmove and Per Una.
The brands mostly sell womenswear although some sell menswear and a couple are lingerie companies.
These new brands will be in addition to the curated offer already on M&S.com including Early Learning Centre and Nobody’s Child, as well as branded kidswear which launched last week from Brand Machine Group including Elle Junior, Russell Athletic, Ben Sherman and Original Penguin.
The new venture "will also give M&S the opportunity to stretch customer appeal and introduce its customers to something new,” it said.
Nearly 10% of customers who have purchased Nobody’s Child, the first brand to launch last autumn, are new to M&S womenswear, it said.
M&S for years had not had a lot of luck with its in-house clothing brands. The Guardian reported: : "M&S has tortured itself and its customers over the years with its attempts to develop in-house brands. Only three can be said to have worked and are staying – Autograph, Per Una and Goodmove. The rest (the likes of Collezione and Indigo) have been gradually ditched. It would have been better to import partnership-style thinking 20 years ago."
Under MS2, M&S said it is "setting itself up to better deliver online for customers by bringing together its online, data and digital capabilities to trade at a faster pace with range and availability adapted to the online model."
Brands at M&S will initially launch online but may expand to UK stores in the future.
The company has come out with a host of announcements in recent days. Earlier this week it said it launched 46 flagship websites in new markets, expanding its online reach to over 100 countries.
The launch nearly doubles the number of international markets where it has an online presence, it said. It is also looking to renovate its Marble Arch store in London.
"Redeveloping the store represents an opportunity to unlock additional value to support its transformation programme and is part of an accelerated plan to create a store estate which is fit for the future," it explained.
Many retail companies are focusing on their online shopping offering as UK retail footfall plummets due to coronavirus restrictions. January saw it at its lowest point since May 2020.
UK high streets and shopping centres have been dealt a particularly hard blow as they saw a 73.3% and 78.2% reduction in footfall respectively.
With numerous lockdowns during the pandemic, footfall in the UK fell by 76.9% in January, which is the largest UK footfall decline since the 81.6% drop in May 2020.
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