Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Marks and Spencer: please read

Poor old Marks and Spencer have had some stick this week. Shareholders got very ratty at their AGM. The problem is, most of Marks' customers are aged 45 and over, but most of their clothes are aimed at the yoof generation, who wouldn't be seen dead in there. Same issue at the BBC, where they're all too happy to kill Gardeners' World for a month because of sport, but wouldn't dream of axing any of the dross on BBC3 aimed at teens.

Liz Jones, unusually for once, offered some good advice to M and S in the Mail. They need to go upmarket. Yes yes yes! We support their Plan A, and having clothes made ethically, but they really need to charge more because the quality has become terrible. Cheap clothes that fall apart are literally ten a penny in places like Primark, Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Before my holiday I tried to buy a simple pair of white shorts and white three-quarter length trousers. Simples, as the mir cats would say. But no -- M and S only had really bad quality versions that were clingy and unflattering.Or linen, which no-one in their right mind buys. I couldn't believe it. I already have some white knee-length cotton shorts, purchased from Marks and Spencer four years ago, that I still wear. They still look immaculate.

As Liz said, we want more cashmere, and more scoop neck jumpers please; and fewer lairy colours. Cashmere jumpers in navy, black, cream, red, camel work so well for work. Dresses with sleeves, yes please - and dresses that try to give us a waist, rather than the shapeless sacks M and S favour for workwear. Things that are a bit more edgy, but less embellished. More variety in the cut and shape of jackets: not so many boxy or straight jackets.

Please get rid of Per Una altogether. I can't understand who would wear those ghastly voluminous crinkly skirts and flouncy tops. Everything is far too overdone with sequins, lace, buttons. Some simple maritime themed basics would be great: it is impossible to find a good quality scoop neck with short or three-quarter length sleeves t-shirt in M and S.

My mum is 80, and she and her friends are shopaholics. They're forever buying clothes! But even she thinks the Classic Collection is too old fashioned. She wants bright colours, but things like the 2-piece camisole sets that M and S used to sell - flattering for older ladies - and more of the Manifesto trousers that manage to be stylish while having an elasicated waist.

Some good news: I read that M&S are trialling a high-end cosmetic zone. Great idea! Apparently it will sell cult brands, the sort you can get in Space NK.I love the stuff sold in Space NK, but sometimes when I look into a store, it's empty and that puts me off because I'm afraid of being sold to. I like the way you can browse high end cosmetics in Boots without being hassled, but they don't sell very many trendy brands, so M&S could be onto a winner.

M and S, please let the teens shop in Topshop, Primark, etc. Concentrate on the older demographic, but think more elegance; more flattering and better quality. And improve the store layout and the changing rooms (that horrific lighting!). You can get rid of most of the famous models in your ads (but bring back Dervla in the food ads). And things will improve. Simples!


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Beckham's out - the right choice

Big old hoo-ha about David Beckham not being picked for the England Olympic soccer team. Last week The Times had an editorial about it, calling for one of the other players to surrender his place to allow Beckham to play. Today India Knight in the Sunday Times weighed in, saying he should be playing.

I don't normally agree with the Daily Mail but I'm with their sports writer who said it was the right decision. The Olympics is about the best in sporting performance and achievement. Beckham is 37 and over the hill. He chose to go to what's effectively a division 3 team, LA Galaxy, to make money. Olympic team manager Stuart Pearce went to the US twice to watch him and clearly wasn't impressed.

It doesn't matter that Beckham has been a tireless ambassador for the Olympics and the London bid. There are other rewards more suitable. He might be the one lighting the cauldron at the opening ceremony. He will probably be knighted at some point. But to say he should be playing, in the twilight of his career, is as ludicrous as suggesting Lord Coe should represent us in the 1500 metres again. Being a celebrity isn't sufficient, nor is choosing someone purely to sell surplus tickets. Stuart Pearce should be applauded for taking his role seriously and choosing what he thinks is the best squad for the job, given that he can't use players who were in Euro 2012 and the Scots declined to take part in Team GB. It will be a good opportunity for us to glimpse the talent of tomorrow, the under 23s who could maybe spring a surprise.
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