M&S's announcement that they will be working with third party brands may not be a huge surprise to industry insiders but does reinforce the need for all retailers to evolve their offer to improve relevance. This is especially important in a post-Covid world where consumers will need more reasons to visit a store than before.
The success that Next and others have seen in deploying outside brands alongside own brand product has reminded the industry that the concept of a department store is not dead. However, as the travails of Debenhams and House of Fraser have demonstrated, getting the execution right is more challenging. This will now be the challenge for M&S. Which brands they choose to work with will be critical. Striking a balance between keeping the offer fresh and interesting for their core customers to increase frequency and transaction value vs. attracting new customer groups is also key. The danger of alienating core customers with ranges or brands deemed 'inappropriate' is a well trodden path and not to be repeated!
Even if the right choices are made on which brands to deploy, nailing the execution is essential. M&S's well publicised issues with stock management and availability of popular sizes must be overcome to assure the success of the new ranges. Getting the pricing, space and visual merchandising right is also a must have. Strategy is the easy part after all, execution is where it gets tough.