High-end British Store Chain Undergoes Changes to Stay Afloat

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. drift / drɪft / (v) – to move slowly and aimlessly

    After losing his job, Jose drifted for several years before finally deciding to start his own business.

  2. plateau / plæˈtoʊ / (v) – to stop progressing

    Store sales have plateaued since the Christmas season ended.

  3. turnaround / ˈtɜrn əˌraʊnd / (n) – a drastic change from bad to good

    The failing store had a remarkable turnaround after partnering with a new ad agency.

  4. arm / ɑrm / (n) – a part of an organization that does a specific job

    The corporation’s clothing arm has finally released a line of sportswear.

  5. tie in with (something) / ˈtaɪˌɪn wɪθ / (phrasal) – to join or combine

    The shoe company tied in with a gaming company to create a unique shoe line similar to what the characters wear in-game.


Read the text below.

Multinational British retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) is in the process of recovering from its underperformance for the past years.

According to Archie Norman, M&S’ new chairman, the high-end shop has been drifting for the last 15 years. It has suffered from declining gross profits, plateauing clothing and homeware sales, and dropping food sales.

Norman, who is known as a retail turnaround expert, only joined M&S last May 2017, but his appointment has immediately raised company shares by more than 5%. He attributed M&S’ drifting status to the previous management. As a new member of the management, Norman laid out a five-year turnaround plan for the firm.

To recover, M&S plans to close down underperforming stores and downsize others by taking out clothing and homeware products from them. The firm also plans to revamp its food product range to better cater to families doing weekly grocery shopping.

In a November survey, M&S’ convenience store arm, Simply Food, topped the list of British shoppers’ favorite retailers, beating Amazon, Apple, and even M&S itself. However, another big decision made for M&S’ recovery is to halt the expansion of Simply Food.

In addition to the efforts above, M&S also used Paddington, a well-loved bear character from England, to rebound from its declining sales. M&S campaigns previously featured trendy celebrities, but the firm is now focused on projecting a family-centric image. The shop’s Christmas campaign, “Paddington and the Christmas Visitor,” was linked to M&S products such as toys and coats. It also tied in with the store’s charity program, in which profits from a £3-book would be donated to an organization for children who need counseling.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree with halting the expansion of Simply Food even though it is actually doing well? Explain.
• Do you think a well-known character such as Paddington Bear can help a drifting company recover? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Is it better for a company to specialize in one product or to develop a range of products? Explain.
• What two products or industries can work well as one business? Discuss.