It’s no secret that the High Street bricks and mortar sales are being hit by the online world – only this morning on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme there was talk of Argos doing well in spite of laying off front-of-house staff, whilst investing in logistics and delivery.
So it’s no surprise that companies such as Marks and Spencer are attacking costs, according to today’s London Times. Tata has clinched the deal and will take responsibility for 250 employees. The move is part of a five-year plan to reduce costs and eventually transfer more business online; according to the Times report the company now does around 17 % of its business online and it wants to increase this to about a third.
Marks has a varied history in terms of its IT but we’d actually trace its fall in fortunes to around 35 years ago. Yes it’s a long time but it was at that stage that the company, which had a reputation for classic, staid but high-quality clothing, decided the costs were too high in the manufacturing process. Reports at he time (which pre-dated the web) suggested that it was going, for example, to reduce the amount of stitches holding a sleeve in place in a jacket – so there would be nothing wrong with the item (no sensible retailer has ever consciously sold something defective) but it wasn’t quite as robust as its predecessors.
The IT issues need addressing and the move to more e-commerce will continue to force the High Street to evolve. However, for us at least, you compromise on your USP at your peril in the longer term.