M&S faces uphill battle to win over weekly food shoppers

Following the news that M&S are planning to expand the number of stores offering the full range of M&S food products, Thomas Brereton, Retail Analyst for GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“It is understandable that M&S Food’s Managing Director Stuart Machin is looking to expand the food side of the business; over the last decade, M&S has increasingly relied on its food division as its clothing and home side has suffered, with food now responsible for 61% of group sales – up from 52% in 2009.

“However, simply offering a full range of food products in more stores will not instantly convert into sales – it will take time for the new proposition to resonate with target consumers, who are more used to shopping at other ‘premium’ players such as Waitrose or Sainsbury’s for the mainstay of their grocery shops. Only 2% of shoppers currently do their full shop at M&S, and it will be an uphill challenge to convince others to switch from their usual supermarkets – even with M&S’s concurrent focus on reducing prices and providing value.

“It’s also an unusual decision to redistribute investment towards larger spaces; average store size at the larger supermarkets has been falling over recent years following the repositioning of store portfolios to focus on closer, smaller shops, to capitalise on the growing demand for convenience.

“It is not necessarily the wrong move for M&S for the long term; rather, it is an onerous task to juggle expanding food space and ensuring the joint venture with Ocado is correctly managed, while also convincing shoppers of a new ‘value’ premise that contrasts with M&S’s long-standing premium reputation.”

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