LONDON — Marks and Spencer is stepping up the pace of its fashion collections and joining the see-now-buy-now movement.
For the first time, the store has created a capsule collection that launched Tuesday — at the same time as the fall 2016 press day — in 26 stores and online.
Called The Big Easy, it features 24 trans-seasonal pieces that are designed to be layered. They come in fabrics including cotton denim, cotton knit, leather, suede and crepe viscose.
Prices range from 12.50 pounds, or $18.03, for a slim fit T-shirt with spaghetti straps to 249 pounds, or $359, for a suede reversible jacket or a zip-front leather one.
The M&S web site is advertising the collection as “Next Season Now.”
“We wanted to design a capsule that was wearable, easy, and with broad appeal — something that can be dropped into your wardrobe right now,” Karen Peacock, the store’s head of women’s wear design, told WWD.
Peacock, who was wearing a floor-skimming satin-back crepe skirt from the collection, said the pieces were created to be worn from spring into autumn; paired with sandals, sneakers or boots; and layered with chunky knits or coats. The M&S fall collection usually begins to drop in mid-August.
Peacock said M&S had been thinking about creating a see-now-buy-now collection, as editors would often attend the press days and want to walk out with some of the looks.
Pieces in The Big Easy include cream denim culottes with topstitching and frayed edges; an off-the-shoulder cotton knit sweater with a long tie at the hip, a crepe viscose shirtdress, leather culottes, and an off-white trouser suit with slashed sleeves.
The main autumn collection features double-face wool coats, a long rib-knit wrap dress, faux shearling jackets, a tweed tunic suit, and an elegant, sculptural jacquard skirt. For evening there’s a velvet pajama suit, an embroidered bomber, and lots of lace in black or dark smoky blue.
The retailer’s decision to create The Big Easy is part of an industry-wide conversation that’s questioning the lag time between fashion shows and delivery; the impact of unseasonal weather conditions; and digital-age consumers’ refusal to wait for the clothes they see online or on the runways.
Come September, fellow British brand Burberry will show seasoness men’s and women’s wear collections together, on the runway, twice a year. The company will make all the collections immediately available online and in-store.
Another British brand, Mulberry, is also closing the time gap between showing and selling. Creative director Johnny Coca’s first collection began dropping in stores in April, weeks — rather than months — after it appeared on the February runway.
M&S has also been grappling with the wider problem of struggling general merchandise and clothing sales.
Once famous for its quality clothing offer, M&S has over the years fallen victim to high street giants including Zara, Hennes & Mauritz, Primark and Next, and has fought for years to shore up the ailing division. In those years, the M&S collections have lacked a clear focus, and have tried to cater to too broad a range of customers.
Last month, the retail giant welcomed a new chief executive officer, Steve Rowe, who said improving the performance of the clothing and home divisions was now the store’s “number one priority.”
As reported, fourth-quarter group sales were up 1.9 percent, boosted by a 4 percent gain in the food division. Sales were flat on a like-for-like basis. The clothing and home division continued to struggle, falling 1.9 percent in the three months to March 26, and 2.7 percent on an underlying basis.
Rowe plans to update the market later this month about his thoughts on the business after the company issues its full-year results.
The M&S clothing division has fallen victim to a number of other factors, too, including price deflation and a flat market. Rowe said part of his plan was to “sharpen” prices on a number of lines and deliver a strong gross margin improvement.