Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Marks and Spencer arrive

Veteran British clothes retailer Marks and Spencer are planning to open their first store in Taiwan in the southern harbor city of Kaohsiung, but what are they hoping to offer that Taiwanese shoppers cannot find already?
Marks and Spencer are a classic British symbol, as much as the Mini and the Rolls Royce - now both owned by BMW - and as Boots, which closed down its Taiwan stores after quite a short-term presence a couple of years ago.
I remember Marks and Spencer from London shopping trips years ago, and frankly, to be polite, their clothes all looked very conservative, designed for and targeted at old British ladies of Miss Marple stature.
On the European continent, the chain won some fans not with its clothes, but by offering typically British food products, such as scones and muffins. While British food on the whole enjoys a rather dubious reputation, it must be said that the best of British food is really worthwhile, and Marks and Sparks, as they're sometimes known, was really good at providing the best.
Unfortunately, that didn't last, because the company got mired in financial troubles and decided to close down most of its stores on the European mainland in order to remedy that situation.
I guess that worked because now the company is targeting that paradise of consumerism and rising spending power, Asia.
As my opening sentence reveals, I am more than doubtful that this will succeed. What can they offer Taiwanese consumers that they can't find already at any Net, G2000, Iroo Moderato, Kuda, MOMA, Esprit, Mexx and Mango?
Shoppers who want the British spirit already have Burberry, Mulberry, Dunhill, Paul Smith, Anya Hindmarch and Aquascutum.
If I had to think of a foreign retail chain that hasn't appeared in Taiwan yet and that could make a success of it, I would say 'Zara' first. Marks and Spencer is absolutely not on my list, but hey, let's give them a chance. Let's see what they come up with, and how long they stay.


Blogger Tom Wilkinson said...

Are M&S just opening fashion outlets? To be honest their fashion is aiming at middle England mothers, not a comparable market to Taiwan I would guess...
I noticed M&S are advertising new outlets in the High Speed Rail stations so I assume they are trying to break into the luxury take-away food market. This is their most successful area in UK retail in the last few years.
Phil (in Taipei)

11:00 AM  

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