Marks and Spencer is to start shouting about its food offer, chief executive Stuart Rose said this week.
As the company launched its first food-only TV advertisement, Rose said the high-street chain was one of the “hidden secrets” in UK food retailing. “We don’t tell consumers what we do,” he said. “Do you know that all our eggs are free-range? That all our ingredients are GM-free? No, of course you don’t. We haven’t told you,” he said.
In today’s price-conscious environment, M&S needed to highlight what customers were buying into: the finest ingredients, safety, traceability and convenience, said Rose. The retailer intended to continue
providing value for money but its buying power was limited compared to the big supermarkets, he added.
“There are equally as many customers who care about
where food comes from as care about money. I don’t believe we have communicated to customers why they should pay more for quality and peace of mind,” he said. The new 50-second commercial, which appears during Coronation Street and runs until Easter, emphasises the quality and provenance of food. The message was also being rolled out in-store from this week.
M&S was the number six food retailer with 5% of the market, Rose said. It had introduced 1,000 new products in the past year, equating to 28% of the range, although he conceded that in its food it had got to “go a step further” and was “slightly out of the habit” of producing true innovation.
Rose also admitted the rise of the clothing discounters and encroachment of supermarkets into non-food was creating intense competition.
“It is making life difficult. Competition is not new but it is slightly more aggressive and intrusive. We have to find a way to fight back.”
To do this, M&S would be using innovation and new technologies as well as find suppliers who “abide by the new rules”.
“We had a T-shirt at £8 last year, this year it is £4.50,” he said, adding that, despite reports to the contrary, Asda was at least half the size of M&S in terms of clothing sales. “It’s game on,” he said.
There was no news, however, on when a decision would be made on the position of director of food. Interim director Guy Farrant, who is still in the frame, has been doing the job since June last year.
Siân Harrington