Jul 7, 2021
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M&S puts big push behind mega back-to-school season

Jul 7, 2021

With the Covid-linked disruption of the past 16 months finally nearing its end, retailers are gearing up for a mega back-to-school (BtS) season this summer. And M&S is putting extra support behind its BtS offer as it targets consumers who are fundamentally different from those of two years ago.


Since the last ‘proper’ BtS season, consumers have been through a major public health emergency and have emerged with a greater focus on sustainability. Now M&S has just launched a new campaign that highlights the sustainability credentials of its “super-durable, ‘hand-me-downable’ Back to School offer which is all 20% off”.

It follows the earlier news of a brand partnership with footwear label Clarks for BtS.

The company said the campaign is about school uniforms for people “who are anything but [uniform]” and sees it communicating to M&S’s customers “the trusted-quality value and sustainability credentials of the 2021 range”.

Not that the sustainability angle is completely new to the retailer as it became the first major UK store to sell kids’ clothes made using organic Fairtrade cotton as far back as 2006. 

But it said that “during the pandemic, consumers have become even more conscious of the impact of clothing on the environment and over 50% of M&S customers surveyed say they have become more aware of sustainable clothing options during this time”.

So it’s focused on product for 2021 that’s “more sustainable than ever” and “kinder to the planet” with its claims “backed up by robust evidence compiled by M&S’s expert Plan A team including individual certification claims for specific product call-outs throughout the offer, so parents can shop with confidence”.

This year, the company is switching to organic cotton across all knitwear, jersey, and sweats in its uniform offer. And it’s introducing both sustainably sourced viscose, sustainably sourced trims (including sewing thread, buttons, and interlining) and more recycled polyester than previous years. It sells 2 million polos a year so “has selected this as the hero item of the range, creating its most sustainable polo ever”.

It all makes good commercial sense with BtS being the third biggest retail event of the year and “following more than a year of disruption, this back to school season will be an important moment for many families,” it said.

The BtS deep dive is part of M&S’s ongoing focus on kidswear as part of a strategic shift from 'special occasion’ to “everyday style & value” for kidswear. It said it’s “driving frequency of shop through creating a more relevant offer and market share is +0.5% vs pre-pandemic”. 

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