Giving the customers what they want


English: Logo of Marks & Spencer displayed on ...

Logo of Marks & Spencer displayed on products and in stores since 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taking a dip

The famous UK department store chain, Marks and Spencer, has reported falling sales in clothing and non-food items again.

It is sad to see a flagship high street name struggling. They always used to be so reliable for quality shirts and smart wear. I was never a big fan of their underwear though other people always swore by it.

Getting shirty

Someone (actually my Mum) was kind enough to give me some M & S gift vouchers and the other day I went to spend them in the store on (I hoped) a couple of smart cotton shirts. I browsed around the men’s department, and although I found a couple of shirts I quite liked, I thought they were expensive. To put it in context, these shirts were more expensive than I can get in the current sales of the “up-market” Jermyn Street shirt-makers. Of course they do not always have a sale, but my instinct is always to buy on value. I could not find it in M & S.

I was eager to buy. I had “free” money to spend in vouchers; yet I was not prepared to spend on what is not good value.

They can’t tell the bottom from the top

In the clothing market we have generally the “luxury” end and the cheap end. You can buy a poly-cotton shirt for £5.00 though its quality might not be great and it might not last so long or be so comfortable. However it will serve its purpose. You can buy Jermyn Street shirts in the sale or otherwise pay a lot but get quality. There does not seem to be a middle market, and M & S have not understood or adapted to that; certainly not enough for me to see value.

It is our client’s choice, but ours as well

In many businesses including mine, prospects are looking either for a cheap and reliable service, or they want to be cosseted. All too many accountants are simply too generic and undifferentiated. Clients do not feel they are getting much or any more than from the cheaper providers. Their clients want to pay less, because they do not perceive value, although perhaps some would pay a lot more to feel as though they were a firm’s only client and had their full attention at all times.

It is no good chugging along in business assuming that what you have always done will suffice for a client. The market is constantly changing. All of us have to keep selling our value to our clients according to what they actually want; otherwise they will kiss us goodbye, or leave us in a less polite fashion. And we have to choose which part of the market we want to be in, don’t we? That is not the boring middle bit, is it?

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