Business Strategy Marks and Spencer Term Paper

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Business Strategy

Marks and Spencer - Business Strategy

Marks and Spencer was established in the 1880s in Leeds, Great Britain, in the form of a bazaar selling a diversified product palette, each item costing only one penny. The name was adopted only some years later, when initial founder Michael Spencer transformed his cashier Tom Spencer into his business partner. The strategic approach at the basis of the international success registered by the giant retailer was based on six sets of actions: first of all, clients would receive the highest quality products, under the corporate brand name and at competitive prices; suppliers were encouraged to use the most efficient production techniques; company officials would closely collaborate with suppliers as to ensure the best control; customers would be treated with the utmost respect and the quality of the services would be impeccable; operations would be simplified as to increase the efficiency; and finally, they would create a pleasant atmosphere and maintain good relationships with all stakeholders (Collier).

The company's vision remains unchanged up to present days and it revolves around being "the standard against which all others are measured." Their mission is to "make aspirational quality accessible to all" and their core values are "quality, value, service, innovation and trust" (Marks and Spencer Shop Online)

2. External Analysis

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Relative to the external environment, Marks and Spencer initially conducted market research in order to identify the trends and adapt to them. For instance, Simon Marks (CEO and son of founder) even went to America to learn for the corporate strategies implemented there. Then, they also offered their staff members more incentives, generally materialized in the creation of a pleasant work environment and the offering of higher salaries that the competitors in the industry.

Term Paper on Business Strategy Marks and Spencer - Business Assignment

But as time passed and the population became increasingly needy of newer and better things, the competition in the industry began to increase drastically. However, most competitors were focused on offering their customers the latest items, the most modern and most fashionable ones. The primary disadvantage of this strategy was that as the season ended, the remaining unsold items constituted loss; they would not be sold in the following season as they would be out of fashion, comparative to the new pieces produced. Marks and Spencer on the other hand implemented a different approach - however they also sold fashionable and modern items, they were primarily focused on presenting their customers with classic designs that would stand the test of time and could be worn regardless of the latest fashion trends. From this standpoint, the British retailer was able to differentiate themselves from the competition.

And the strategy was not only implemented nationwide, but it also helped them register international success. The reduction of trade barriers, the increasing and changing needs of the populations, the fashionable trend of purchasing foreign made clothes alongside with other macroeconomic forces opened Marks and Spencer's door to America and Canada. They register tremendous success here, but as time went by and the company began to struggle with financial shortages, the expansion programs to Europe and other regions of the American continent were halted.

The reasons promoted for the income decline in Marks and Spencer's operations was stated to have been the highly fierce competition, due to the creation of more and more retail chains. And what was worse was that these new retail stores would compete against M&S on both top and bottom levels, generally stealing M&S' customers, or forming new customers, that would have fitted the description of a Marks and Spencer client. "Competitors at the top end of the market were niche organizations such as the Gap, Oasis and Next, offering similarly priced goods, yet more design focused with up-to-date fashions, and from which obvious comparison could be made against the more traditional M&S merchandise. [...] at the bottom end of the market there was competition from discount stores, such as Matalan, and supermarkets such as the 'George' range at Asda. These stores were competing against M&S by offering essential and basic clothing, but at significantly lower prices" (Collier).

But the increased competition was not only a matter of concern for the officials at Marks and Spencer, as it also offered new insights and new development opportunities. To better explain, M&S was now able to follow the successful strategies implemented by competing companies and adapt them to the unique features of Marks' organization. The most relevant example in this sense is given by an enlargement of the product offering, based on the models from Tesco and Sainsbury, which also offered foods, idea adopted by Marks and Spencer as well.

Even so, the company failed to implement major strategies that would help the company recover from the difficulties encountered. The competitors were continuing to further develop and adapt to the growing and changing market requirements and implemented newer strategies, such as loyalty cards.

3. Internal Analysis

Internally, Marks and Spencer was a strong company looking to further strengthen their core competencies. They understood early on the importance of the role played by the employees and they emphasized on integrating them into the corporate culture. Foremost, they were consistent in unifying the individual goals of the staff members with the overall goals of the company. The candidates who did not suit the corporate profile and were not expected to fit in were not even hired. But those who were contracted by Marks and Spencer were integrated within the corporate culture and were treated with respect.

Then, another internal aspect of the British retailer was their operational process. In order to increase its efficiency, with the stated purpose of increasing customer satisfaction and as a consequence, consolidating the market position and registering increased revenues, the operational processes were simplified. This resulted in reduce product cycles and easier to complete work tasks for staff members - all to support the organization in reaching their objectives.

Also, as a strategy implemented by Marks, the control within the company was extremely strict. Increased attention was placed on details and the staff members, however remunerated and motivated better than other employees in competing organizations, were expected to perfectly fulfill their tasks and when this did not occur, the managers would attract their attention. "This concern for control was also manifested in the way Marks dealt with suppliers. He always used the same UK-based suppliers and meticulously ensured that goods were exactly to specification; a relationship designed to build reliance of the suppliers and ensure high consistent quality" (Collier).

The organization also implemented marketing strategies that were aimed to identify and best address the needs of the customers. Also, a highly successful marketing strategy was given by a preference towards consistency. This basically materialized in following a central direction at all times and ensuring the high quality guaranteed by the company's reputable logo and brand name.

But despite their registered success, Marks and Spencer began to encounter financial difficulties. In order to cut costs, they decided to layoff some of their full time employees and replace them with part time staff members. The strategy however failed to retrieve the outcome the management had hoped for. As such, by letting the specialized and formed employees go, they brought in new individuals, who were not formed into the corporate culture and who found it difficult to adjust to it. Also, the quality of the tasks performed by the new part time employees was poor and it soon materialized in reduced customer satisfaction. When confronted with the issues, Richard Greenbury, the chief executive officer at that time, responded that he did not measure the corporate success in terms of customer satisfaction, but in terms of sales and visits to the store, which in fact revealed the ascendant trend of Marks and Spencer. The response given by the CEO could not have been well received by the communities; and after all, what client desires to hear that their satisfaction is not a priority, but sales and corporate revenues are? Even though this is generally the case, the corporate politics should not allow the making of such statements by company officials. And this mistake, alongside with others that placed reduced emphasis on clients eventually materialized in reduced market share. "It was frequently reported in the press that M&S no longer understood or reacted to its customers' needs. It misread its target market and could not understand that customers who purchased food or underwear might not want products from its home furnished range" (Collier).

All in all, the internal strategy implemented by the officials at Marks and Spencer was based on actions with limited risks and as such limited earning possibilities. Also, the management had placed a strong emphasis on the corporate culture and no leaders were hired from outside the company - all managerial positions were occupied through internal promotions. This had the advantage of already formed individuals, but it often lacked in creativity and elements of novelty. The approach had been successful in the era of reduced competition, but failed as the market evolved.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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