Wednesday 28 September 2016

Silence is golden for shoppers as Marks & Spencer switches off piped music

Published 01/06/2016 | 10:16

Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is to switch off background music in stores in response to feedback from customers and staff.

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The new music-free policy will be implemented over the next few weeks at 300 clothing and home branches across the UK.

An M&S spokeswoman said: "We're focused on putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

"This decision is the result of extensive research and feedback from our customers and colleagues."

M&S first introduced in-store music in 2006 and is one of many businesses which have sparked anger from shoppers for their use of repetitive musical playlists.

Anti-noise group Pipedown recently staged a protest against the retailer's selection of tunes and urged shoppers to convince new M&S boss Steve Rowe to end background music.

Studies have found that those who suffer hearing problems and noise sensitivity can find background music disorientating.

Pipedown said: "This decision, which will save M&S money, is the result of years and years of determined campaigning by Pipedowners and other people, who have refused to be fobbed off with bland dismissals.

"M&S remains the UK's biggest chain store, a national institution. So this is a great day for all campaigners for freedom from piped music.

"Millions of customers will be delighted by this news. So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years.

"Now we can shop in peace."

Mr Rowe unveiled a turnaround plan for the high street stalwart last week, announcing it was his "top priority" to get clothing sales back on track.

He said he will cut everyday prices for nearly a third - 30% - of its clothing ranges, while reducing promotions and clearance sales.

At the heart of Mr Rowe's revamp is a plan to win back "Mrs M&S", its once loyal army of women shoppers aged 50 and over, who he said have been "neglected" in recent years.

His highly-anticipated strategy overhaul came as the group unveiled a 4.3% rise in underlying pre-tax profits to £689.6 million for the 53 weeks to April 2.

Bottom-line profits fell 18.5% to £488.8 million due to one-off costs of more than £200 million, including around £50 million from payment protection insurance mis-selling at M&S Bank.

The music licensing company PRS for Music said M&S stands to save tens of thousands of pounds a year as a result of turning off commercial music, which costs around £1,600 a year per 10,000 metres of shop floor space.

Gavin Larkins, head of licensing at PRS, said: "Used correctly, music can be a powerful tool in a business setting and for many business owners forms an integral part of their business plan, used as a commercial driver to attract customers, motivate staff and as an aid to enhance their brand.

"PRS for Music believes that quality music can make a major contribution to business success - whatever the sector."

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