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    INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Marks & Spencer Hailed for Customer Loyalty

    Despite many tumultuous years in the recent past, the British retailer's level of customer retention has improved substantially.

    LONDON -- Marks & Spencer (M&S) was cited last week as the most improved of Britain’s food retailers for customer loyalty over the past decade, according to Timesonline.com.

    M&S’s level of customer retention has improved substantially, despite experiencing a tumultuous nine years that included two takeover attempts by Sir Philip Green, according to TNS, a market research company.

    Retention is a measure of customer loyalty based on how likely shoppers are to return to a store and recommend it to family and friends, the article reported.

    In 2000, the year in which Luc Vandevelde succeeded Sir Richard Greenbury at the helm, M&S suffered the worst retention rate of any of the big British retailers.

    Today it is second only to Asda, ahead of Waitrose, its premium rival, J Sainsbury, Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons and Aldi.

    "These [loyalty] figures show M&S is a real success story," said Gemma McIntosh of TNS. "Back in 2000, sales were falling and credibility was low. But the effort to modernize the brand has been hugely successful." The most important elements of the modernization of the brand were store refurbishments and innovation on food, such as the Dine in for £10 promotion and the "not just food" campaign, McIntosh said.

    Sir Stuart Rose, the M&S executive chairman who took charge in 2004, initiated a turnaround plan that prompted the share price of the retailer to nearly treble.

    However, in the past two years M&S has been losing market share and has suffered declining profits, leading some critics to argue that Sir Stuart has made no progress in turning around M&S aside from supplier-funded cost improvements.

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