M&S goes for extra length with new range
More coats, dresses with sleeves, longer skirt lengths and hero wardrobe pieces like a €160 'per una Speziale' gold sequinned maxi for Christmas.
They look good, with some attractive retro but can autumn winter 2013 style themes of Femme Fatale, Modern Elegance and Wild Opulence turn the fortunes for high street chain M&S who have suffered two years of declining clothes sales?
All eyes were on retail queen Belinda Earl in London this week as the newly appointed Style Director at M&S unveiled her secret ammunition to get the chain back on top of the retail ladder.
And in the end, hemlines went down and share price went up. On Wednesday, shares in the 129-year-old firm, up 20 percent over the past year after periodic bouts of bid speculation, rose up to 4 percent, hitting a five-year high of 438 pence.
Fashion sales from the company famous for their underwear are down for the last seven quarterly results and with online competition hotting up, the British chain who have 21 stores in Ireland, are taking customer feedback very seriously.
Earl, the former CEO of Jaeger and Debenhams is putting a lot of store by coats and has upped the company's coat order by 80pc.
They describe it as "the beginning of a new era" with a renewed focus on quality and confident style and, in new move, 85pc of their ladies dresses will now have sleeves, of various lengths.
It's more styling than modesty driven but M&S have added two and three centimetres to their Limited Edition skirt lengths.
Highlights at their press day this week included chalk pinstripe suits for both men and women and a much admired €115e pink coat from M&S Collection due into stores in August.
Legendary 1960s supermodel Twiggy has collaborated on a stunning retro style fitted suit for the M&S Collection range and there is a Dior-style tweed swing coat from per una Speziale which will definitely send the hearts of vintage fiends racing.
There are lace dresses for mums, and scaled down kids versions, catwalk perfect, right down to the raw, eye-lash hemlines.
Earl told the Irish Independent how she has parked the grunge look and her strategy covers how women shop, right down to putting all co-ordinated outfits together so customers can "see more outfits."
Her retail fight-back includes new 'destination' departments for coats and dresses and, with a keen eye on the 'luxe' recession shopper, the chain are increasing the weight of their cashmere by 9pc and reducing the price.
Irish fashion hits for the chain included sales in store and online of a sequinned wool coat last winter and this season, the company are reprising it a pinky beige and also in navy at 135e.
Earl hit the headlines when, at Debenhams, she became the first CEO of a listed company to take maternity leave "and it was more than three weeks", she said yesterday. She admitted that before she took on her present job, she was an M&S shopper for food and lingerie but would not have classified herself as one of their fashion shoppers.
However, all that has changed now and dressed head -to-toe in M&S yesterday, she clearly hopes that other women are going to follow suit. Recruiting Queralt Ferrer from Massimo Dutti in the Inditex Group which includes Zara, is part of their fight-back arsenal and she starts as the new head of designer at Autograph and Limited Edition later this year.