Beginning of the End of Marks and Spencer’s Reign

By Stephen Kangal
May 28, 2018

Stephen KangalTrinbagonians who relished the opportunity during their much anticipated visits to Britain to shop for the St Michael’s brand of quality clothing, lingerie, men’s wear and pre-cooked food will be disappointed with the news that the flag-ship of high street – retailing, the iconic Marks and Spenser (M&S) is in terminal decline and will be closing over one hundred stores to survive the competition from smaller leaner retailers as well as from the rapidly changing palate for fashion of the young and cost conscious shoppers.

M&S is indeed a celebrated British institution equal in stature to the new improved Royal Family. It was established in 1884 by a Polish refugee Marks and an English partner Spenser. It catered for the bulging English and indeed Commonwealth middle classes mainly in the age group 30-80. Just as the Royal Family had to recalibrate itself at the recent Royal Wedding to achieve relevance, wider loyalty and ownership, M&S may have to diversify its traditional exclusive supply dependence away from its high-priced British suppliers that indeed proved to be the principal liability in its business model.

M&S did not follow its high street competitors in sourcing their clothing lines from cheaper suppliers overseas. M&S saw its profit position decline from an unprecedented one billion pounds. Its food department kept the empire afloat for decades but the clothing line was the main revenue earner. On line shopping, an aging British demographics, increasing high street rents and cheaper clothing stores such as Primark gradually whittled away at the dominant clothing monopoly held by M&S.

It established over one thousand stores across the UK retail trading landscape. Like the late Kirpalani’s and Woolworth’s it began to pay the price of diseconomies of scale and corporate failure to negotiate rapidly changing British business retailing dynamics. Hence the proposed 100 closures to reinvent itself.

I empathise with my fellow compatriots who will be saddened by this decline especially my Trinbago sisters who sourced their lingerie ward-robe from M&S. I myself am an M&S man to the marrow who wore nothing less than the St Michael’s label. However having joined the senior citizenship crowd as so many Britishers have done, I now cannot help this celebrated British institution to weather the high street storm that is dismantling its traditional retailing appeal and loyal customer base.

6 Responses to “Beginning of the End of Marks and Spencer’s Reign”


  • Here we go again… More diatribe glorifying colonialism and it’s trappings. Was this really worth an article, Kangal? Why not discuss the history of the cotton industry in India, the materials of which would have been sold in establishments such as Marks and Spencer, and the killing or maiming of scores of Indians? How is the closure of this business relevant?

  • As I said T&T citizens including politicians shop there and its closure will be of interest to them. There is also a lesson for business in T&T to take note of of changing business dynamics. I do not harbour hate but black colonials are more vicious that whites. M&S sourced its clothing from British producers as I said so where does Indian cotton figure in? With your small mind you will find fault in many things. Perhaps you can write about the cotton industry and not lecture me on what I should write. Are you trying to colonise me mentally or set my writing agenda? You too farce and outa place brother man! You want me to bash the white man and that will meet with your approval.

  • Of course, Kangal’s article is irrelevant, and the response he gave is doubly silly. He just wanted to let people know that he is an courant with things British so that he can show himself to be some expert on how we should all view British royalty and the recent wedding. Get lost with that!

    Kangal said, “I do not harbour hate but black colonials are more vicious that whites.” Only a hate-filled, anti-black bigot would so casually make such an asinine comment. Colonials are residents of a colony. How could Africans who have been subjugated through slavery and colonialism be more vicious than Whites IN A COLONY that was set up and controlled by Whites? Of course, the intent of that statement was to inflame the emotions of Africans because Kangal feels hurt: smarting because an earlier pro-Black commentary was not celebrating the royal wedding.

    Comments like his could only be conjured in the minds of ignorant persons and others who are comfortable with the role for which the colonizers brought them to many Africans countries. Because of the caste system in India, Europeans thought Indians would act as a buffer class between the enslaved or otherwise subjugated Africans and their white abusers. They knew that Indians would generally side with whites no matter the circumstances as they abhorred Africans. It is with this mindset that Gandhi operated. His campaign was for himself and for his fellow Indians to be accepted as Whites and not to be treated like Africans.

    So Kangal, I do understand. A useful and critical article about the legacy of colonialism would have hurt your pro-white sensibilities. Of course, you did not think your article was about trying to colonise anyone’s mind, but a response to yours can be viewed that way, eh? It is not Africans who are responsible for the caste system in India that some Indians try to apply to Africans even outside of India. Some operate as if Africans should know their place in their caste structure and not challenge white or Brahmin authority.

  • I see this article as metaphor for the saying that nothing is written in stone. Especially when it comes to economics. My take on this is from the US where I reside. If you don’t adapt, you will be swept away. M&S is falling the same as some big stores. New retailers(amazon,walmart, etc )with better economies of scale and technolgy are pushing aside establishment stores like Sears, car manufacturers and big supermarket chain. Adapt or die.

  • I am not trying to show off on things British. I am actually in Britain currently and writing from first hand knowledge because the media and people of T&T have a running interest in developments in the UK based on my 38 years of visiting here as well as working here. I am no fly by night commentator on things British but can inteprete both societies and not be insulated and corralled in T&T exclusively.

    As far as I am concerned Meghan conquered and re-colonised the hearts of over 50 million Britishers on May 19 and it was a pleasure to witness this supported by her Mother Doria both descendants of slaves having the Britishers eating from the palm of their respective hands.

  • Shashi Tharoor speech confirms we love to hate the British. He elaborates upon that while conversing with Rajdeep Sardesai.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcWc7WqcS5M

    The India of 17th,18th and 19th centuries was the richest in the world until the British came.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMNkfQwkRC4

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