Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is one of the most revered names in UK retail, but it has its roots in humble beginnings. Michael Marks and Tom Spencer opened the retailer’s first store, a Penny Bazaar, in Leeds back in 1894. It made its reputation in the early 20th century by selling only British-made products, selling clothing and food under the St Michael brand. In the 1970s and 1980s, M&S pushed into international markets including the US, Canada and France, but after peaking in the late 1990s, financial performance in its core UK market began to wane.

By 2004, Arcadia tycoon Sir Philip Green attempted to capitalise with a swoop on the business, but it failed to get sufficient backing from shareholders, with M&S instead opting to sell M&S Money as part of its turnaround plan.

The retailer has focused on becoming more digital, shelling out £750m to snap up a 50% stake in Ocado Retail in February 2019 - a deal that allowed it to sell food online for the first time. But M&S’s clothing business remains a perennial problem as it wrestles to restore itself to the former glories of its 1990s heyday.

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Deep dive: Can M&S become the nation’s favourite shop again?

Can M&S become the nation’s favourite shop again?

Marks & Spencer is often referred to as the nation’s favourite retailer.

But the retailer has gone from turnaround plan to turnaround plan since the turn of the millennium, and time is starting to run out.

As Britain’s favourite retailer loses relevance to today’s shoppers, Retail Week asks: can M&S be saved?