Today we got our first real glimpse of what Marks & Spencer will look like under Marc Bolland. And the early signs are… not that different.
Bolland described it as “evolution not revolution”. Words like “unspectacular” and “uninspiring” are being bandied about by people paid to say things like that.
Certainly the new ‘Only at M&S’ tag is not a million miles from the ‘Not just…’ era. And while Bolland pledged to overhaul the estate of UK stores to the tune of £600m, his predecessor spent several billion doing similar things during his tenure.
“In food, we will establish a clear market position as a specialist high-quality retailer, inspiring customers with our unrivalled quality and innovation,” Bolland said.
The former Heineken exec has never claimed to be an orator like Sir Stuart Rose – but in this instance, the message was uncannily familiar.
And the man who kept Morrisons off the web will not be launching a full-scale grocery business for M&S in the foreseeable, either.
“We are looking at it,” he stonewalled. “If we find a business model that works for us we will step in, but only if we find a viable model.”
Of more interest is the news that Bolland is rowing back on having brands in-store.
Not long after Sir Stuart ended the umming and ahhing by coming down broadly in favour, Bolland will slash the current 400 brands to just 100, in areas were M&S can’t offer a “best-in-class” solution of its own.
Needless to say, we’ll have more on Bolland’s masterplan in this weekend’s edition of The Grocer.
In terms of general retail, his analysis is that the retailer ain’t broke, so there’s little need for major fixing. That may be true, if you overlook issues such as an ageing customer base and increased competition from high street upstarts.