British bellwether high-street retailer Marks & Spencer is pinning its hopes on becoming an upmarket fashion company in a bid to boost sales.
First of all, a suede “Autograph” skirt, which costs £199 ($US308) and wasn’t even available buy at the time in April, was touted as the reason for M&S posting its best sales performance in nearly four years.
Now, M&S is hoping to get the same type of fashion-conscious customers to come back, after it announced that it will sell eight types of high-end trainers at £110 ($US170) a pair.
Although it hasn’t unveiled the new designs, four pairs will be made for men while the other four will be made for women, by British company Walsh.
Walsh isn’t necessarily a name synonymous with catwalk fashion but it carries strong brand recognition through its position in British culture and has become increasingly popular with indie music artists, such as the Vamps and British Sea Power.
Founder Norman Walsh started making shoes in 1945 and produced trainers for the British Olympic team in 1948. In 1961 he founded the company that trades today and Walsh is the only trainer brand to design and manufacturer its shoes in Britain.
“This season will see the Best of British collection continue to champion the finest of British craftsmanship from around Britain. Our collaboration with Walsh, who were established in 1961, further highlights another long-standing British brand that has achieved greatness through quality and innovation, and we are extremely excited with the union,” said a spokesperson to the Telegraph newspaper at the launch of its Autumn/Winter collection.
M&S was once the default clothing supplier to the entire nation. Now it engaged in a years-long fight to shake off its legacy of peddling grandmother-style underwear and plain, dowdy clothing.
The partnership with Walsh could prove to be a boon for M&S, if customer behaviour replicates that of its suede skirt.
M&S sales for the three months to March 28 grew 1.9%. General merchandising sales increased by 0.7% on a like-for-like basis over the quarter. Since it is a trading update, M&S only provides percentages and not monetary figures, for its sales reporting.
It said that “our Spring/Summer ranges have been well received by customers, as evidenced by strong improvement in customer research scores, as well as great fashion press coverage, including that of our iconic suede skirt.“