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Research Paper on Explorative Study of Marketing Strategies Adopted By Fashion Retail Industry in the United Kingdom: A Case Study of Mark and Spencer

Company Overview

Mark and Spencer Group(M&S) is among the leading retailers of foods, clothing, and home ware in the United Kingdom. However, Mark and Spencer Group plc. enjoys a dominant market position in the clothing segment due to the factors such as the diversified range and quality of products in its product segment (Datamonitor Report, 2011). Primarily, the company’s operations are divided into both wholly owned stores and franchise stores. Mark and Spencer Group plc. operates 690 stores in the United Kingdom and another 320 owned and franchised stores in other international territories. Major products and services from the company include different assortments of clothes, food, and home ware and accessories. For purposes of this paper, the clothing section of the will be analyzed. Product offerings in the clothing retail segment include women’s wear, men’s wear, lingerie, footwear, and children wear. Other notable products include food, grocery items, and home ware and accessories. Mark and Spencer Group plc. also offers services such as credit cards, insurance, and other financial services. Finally, major brands include Collezione, Limited Collection, Girls Boutique, Autograph, and Per Una among others (Datamonitor Report, 2011).

Mark and Spencer Group distributes its products through channels such as flagship stores, retail park stores, M&S outlets, M&S Catalogue, Simply Food stores, and Simply Food franchised outlets. The Mark and Spencer Group online platform also plays a crucial role in distributing products and services to its clients.

Statement of the Problem

The current fashion industry in the UK is characterized by intense competition and increased adoption of marketing strategies aimed at increasing the level of competition and creating sustainable advantage within the market. The fashion industry is highly volatile and seasonal; hence, it is subject to vulnerabilities such as the ‘fading out’ effect on fashion items. Each fashion season is characterized by a new clothing design or style that has particular periods of remaining ‘hype’ among fashion lovers. Firms competing in the industry have devised unlimited strategies and resources into efforts aimed at reaching customer groups in all market segments. As such, success in the fashion industry is characterized by the ability of fashion retailers to keep up with the fast developing pace and the development of creative and innovative marketing strategies (Walter, 2011). Firms that fail to develop creative and innovative marketing strategies are high risk of leaving the market. At this moment, it is forcefully crucial to explore the importance of marketing strategies adopted by retailers in the UK fashion industry.

This research proposal limits itself to the exploration of marketing strategies adopted by retailers in the UK fashion industry. Particular focus will be placed on the marketing strategies adopted by Mark and Spencer in enhancing market dominance in the UK fashion industry. For the past several decades, Mark and Spencer’s mission has revolved around the delivery of quality, value, and service to consumers. Majority of marketing strategies adopted by the company revolves around five key principles that include the development of long-term relationships with suppliers, supporting the domestic (British) industry, the provision of value through the delivery of a selected range of merchandise delivered at affordable prices, utilizing the company’s brand, and capitalizing on promotional activities.

Literature Review

The research proposal aims to provide key insights concerning the strategies adopted by Mark and Spencer in expanding its marketing strategies and growth potential in the UK retail industry in addition to examining specific strategies that have enabled the company to enjoy a dominating market share. Other than the exploration of specific marketing strategies adopted by Mark and Spencer, this paper aims to provide recommendations regarding marketing strategies that could be adopted by other firms within the industry in efforts aimed at enhancing competitive advantage and market dominance. Furthermore, the research will analyze the current situation in the UK fashion industry with respect to the prevailing marketing strategies adopted by companies in the industry. In turn, it will review potential contributions of marketing strategies to the popularity of the UK fashion industry and subsequently, establish the principles for evaluating the application of marketing strategies in the growth of the industry. Owing to the complexity of strategies used by firms within the industry to attract customers, this study will concentrate in the examination and exploration of marketing strategies adopted by firms within the UK fashion industry with particular focus being directed to specific marketing strategies adopted by Mark and Spencer Group plc.

Majority of research studies have been conducted in examining the fashion industry in the United Kingdom. Among the research studies relating to the application use of marketing strategies in the fashion and apparel industry, majority of them were concentrated in the study of the general application of marketing strategies on the industry wide perspective. For instance, Myers (2004) and Helen (2011) centered their studies in the examination of effects of globalization of the marketing activities of firms in the apparel industry while Ferguson (2004) based his research studies on factors contributing to the general growth and development of firms within the industry. Equally, the effects of internet marketing on the marketing activities of various firms is also another research topic that has received significant attention as far as the exploration of marketing strategies is concerned (David, 2011). Birtwistle, Nobbs, & Fiorito (2003) examined the aspect of marketing strategies of firms within the industry from the pricing strategy perspective while failing to touch on other marketing strategy factors. As such, my research analysis failed to single out a particular research study that had been conducted to explore particular marketing strategies from one retailer in the UK fashion industry. For this reason, I decided to conduct a research study that is specifically related to the identification of marketing strategies adopted by a single firm in the industry. I selected to concentrate on Mark and Spencer, in part due to its popularity and success in the UK fashion industry and as well, due to the diverse marketing strategies adopted by the firm in efforts aimed at maximizing its competitive advantage and dominant share in the UK fashion industry.

During the past two decades, the UK fashion industry has undergone several transformations characterized by the increase in the number of retailers specializing in the sale of fashion apparels (Grete, Noreen, & Fiorito, 2003). The UK fashion industry is concentrated by both established retailers of variety clothing and specialist retailers. Examples of specialist retailers in the industry include Wallis, Miss Selfridges, Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop, Warehouse, and Next. Established retailers of variety clothing include Marks & Spencer, Bhs, Primark, New Look, Matalan, and George (in leading supermarket chains). Equally dominant are international chains such as Zara International, Gap, H&M, Benton, and Kookai among others ((Grete, Noreen, & Fiorito, 2003). The intense competition in the UK fashion industry can be attributed to the presence of such companies. Among these industry players, Marks and Spencer is the most dominant and controls the largest market share, approximately 15%. Andrew (1998) argues that the intense competition is dangerous to undifferentiated or inefficient retailers given that they will be unable to survive in the increasingly competitive market environment due to expanded product proliferation, and increased pressure to lower prices for products.

Specific Marketing Strategies adopted by Marks and Spencer

Marks & Spencer has enjoyed a dominant market position in the UK fashion industry and this can be attributed to the application of creative and innovative marketing strategies. According to Mandy, Christopher, & Karinna (2006), Marks and Spencer, for a long time, has adopted seemingly focused and direct marketing strategies that targets customers based on needs, demands, lifestyle, and cultures among potential customers. David 2011supports this idea by arguing that marketing strategies adopted by Marks and Spencer are based on informed, tactical, and high quality strategic goals and objectives of marketing. Of great significance is the strategic and unique style of promoting its products and services that is incomparable to other established competitors within the market such as The Gap, H&M, Benton, and Kookai among others. Such established competitors have utilized multiple promotional strategies that are mostly targeted towards the elite class within the UK fashion industry.

Other insightful research analysis identified a number of particular strategies that are commonly adopted by Marks and Spencer in the UK fashion industry. This includes market segmentation, targeting strategies, positioning strategies, and advertising. The increasingly uncertain and changing market environment calls for the design of innovative marketing strategies based on solid marketing information in order to capitalize the opportunities presented by the market. The analysis of these marketing strategies is presented below;

Market Segmentation

Marks and Spencer utilizes the segmentation strategy to promote its brand among to the consumers. Through the segmentation strategy, the company focuses on particular segmentation strategies to enhance the brand image of the company. The main target market for Marks and Spencer is the middle-aged person but it as well utilizes other segmentation variables to capture the largest market possible. Under the segmentation strategy are the following segmentation criteria:

Psychographic Segmentation

This segmentation strategy entails placing much focus on particular customer aspects such as lifestyle and personality. Amalesh (2011) defines personality aspect of segmentation as referring to the activity of defining a brand according to the personality traits of the targeted market. Marks and Spencer’s brand personality characterizes the personality of an educated middle-aged person with a relative and active sense of fashion. On the other hand, the lifestyle strategy entails placing focus on particular characteristics of individuals within the target market. For instance, Marks and Spencer targets middle-aged individuals with relative sense of fashion and active lifestyles.

Behavioral Segmentation

This segmentation strategy entails promoting products based on observable conducts of the target market. Such conducts of behavior include the types of benefits that clients look for in a product, the occasion of purchase, the usage of the product, and the beliefs and perceptions of the client (Amalesh, 2011). In terms of beliefs and perception, the Marks and Spencer brand is presented as traditional and standard clothing whereas the purchase occasion entails the availability of different varieties of clothing and apparels that are specifically designed for particular occasions. Concerning usage, a substantial volume of clothing sold by Marks and Spencer goes to heavy users. Last on behavioral segmentation are the benefits sought by clients, which are mostly associated with the high quality and affordable goods.

Profile Segmentation

This segmentation strategy entails promoting products based on the study of factors such as demographics, geographical location, and socio-economic variables. Regarding geographic factors, Marks and Spencer focuses on wealthy individuals who live in affluent locations and leafy suburbs within the UK. These locations include professional and prosperous metropolitan areas, and Home Counties. Regarding socio-economic variables, Marks & Spencer mainly targets well-educated individuals who have excelled in their careers and individuals with substantial levels of income (Mandy, Christopher, & Karinna, 2006). Demographic characteristics of clients targeted by Marks and Spencer involve middle-aged individuals within the 30-54 age group brackets. Most of individuals within this age group are have families, active in their lives and careers and have substantial income levels.

Targeting Strategies

Marks and Spencer utilizes a multi-segment target marketing strategy as compared to the focused targeting strategy that is common with different firms within the industry. Although middle-aged women have been identified as contributing to a significant percentage of total revenues for the company, Marks and Spencer designs, its marketing strategies to target other clients provided they fit the socio-economic class and other characteristics of the target population (Birtwistle, Nobbs, & Fiorito, 2003). For instance, the company produces high quality products that targets men in the population, and these products are designed to enhance the company’s brand image within the clothing and apparel industry. For this reason, the company is not capable of following a differentiated approach due to differences associated with pricing strategies among clients within the fashion industry. Different individuals have different needs, demands, and luxuries and hence, Marks and Spencer targets individuals from the high-income class.

Positioning Strategy

Owing to the increased international presence of the company, Marks and Spencer has been forced to change its market positioning strategy to place the brand to meet the needs of a particular market segment. For instance, the strategic positioning of the company in the UK is different from that positioning strategy used to position the company in, say America (Alexander, 1995). The positioning strategy of the company in the United Kingdom is based on high-quality brand that is aimed at enhancing the company’s brand equity and attracting the loyalty of customers. Through the positioning strategy, Marks and Spencer has managed to establish itself as a distinguished company within the UK fashion industry.

Online Shopping

Technological advancements and the increased use of the internet have transformed the manner with which many organizations conduct their marketing transactions. The development of e-Commerce platforms has made it easier for Marks and Spencer to promote its products to clients. The increased online shopping preference among clients has promoted the online shopping platform by Marks and Spencer. Coupled with Marks and Spencer financials services, it has become increasingly possible for clients to conduct their shopping online and products delivered to agreed locations (Amalesh, 2011).

How this proposal fits to the literature and Links with the Literature

This research proposal is aimed at the exploration of marketing strategies adopted by Marks and Spencer to increase its market share in the UK fashion industry. The analysis of the literature has revealed a number of pertinent issues that not only relates to the significance of marketing strategies in the UK fashion industry but also the exploration of marketing strategies that have been utilized by Marks and Spencer to deliver products to the targeted market. Judging from the intense competition of companies in UK’s fashion industry, companies will most likely be forced to develop creative and innovative marketing strategies to enable them survive and maintain a competitive advantage in the industry. This research proposal aims to explore the above the practicability of the marketing strategies identified from the review of literature with reference to Marks and Spencer.

The examination of past literature clearly identifies unique and creative strategies that have been adopted by Marks and Spencer in efforts to maintain its dominant position in the industry. As such, the aims of this proposal are directly linked to the factors examined in the review of literature.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

The analysis of the literature has identified key concepts of marketing strategies that are essential for enabling Marks and Spencer to maintain a dominant and competitive position in the UK fashion industry. Additionally, the review of literature has provided some key insights regarding marketing strategies that can be adopted by firms within the UK fashion industry to enhance their market share and attain competitive advantage.

Although the process will involve the analysis and exploration of other marketing terms within the industry, the examination of the strategies identified in the literature review can provided a general concept for assessing and exploring the types of marketing strategies adopted by companies such as Marks and Spencer in the UK fashion industry. In turn, this will serve as guidance to the development of research questions and research hypotheses.

Industry Background

Majority of findings revealed in the review of literature were obtained from past studies and researches that had been conducted on earlier periods. Additionally, majority of such studies concentrated on the general marketing perspectives of firms within the UK fashion industry, and in situations where the studies were specific, a selected marketing strategy was investigated. No single research study was dedicated to the study of marketing strategies adopted by a particular company such as the case with Marks and Spencer. The UK fashion industry is growing at an increasing rate and it is characterized by intense competition among firms. Hence, there is the need for each firm to develop creative and innovative ideas and implement the identified ideas into their marketing strategies in order to increase its chances of survival within the industry.

In light of such revelations, this research study aims to undertake a research study to explore the types of marketing strategies adopted by a typical firm in the UK fashion industry. Marks and Spencer is the selected company and hence, the research study will limit itself to the examination and exploration of marketing strategies adopted by Marks and Spencer to enable it increase its market share and enjoy a substantial share of the market. Findings from this research study will be of significance importance to Marks and Spencer, and other firms within the UK fashion industry. It will also provide insights to the market analysts in predicting the future directions and marketing strategies.

Research aim

This research proposal is aimed at the exploration of marketing strategies adopted by firms in the UK fashion industry. Particular focus is placed on the marketing strategies of adopted by Marks and Spencer to enhance its market share, to enhance its profitability, how it maintains its dominant position, and finally sustain its competitive advantage.

Research Questions and hypotheses

The following research questions have been designed to limit the study to a specific area of focus and as well, to promote easier handling of variables.

RQ 1: Should a firm in the UK fashion industry such as Marks and Spencer adopt specific marketing strategies to enable it to compete effectively and attain a dominant market share?

RQ 2: Does marketing strategies have an effect on the market share and growth of Marks and Spencer in the UK fashion Industry?

Research Hypotheses

The following research hypotheses were formulated based on the research questions above.

RH 1: It is necessary for a firm operating in the UK fashion industry, such as Marks and Spencer to develop and adopt particular marketing strategies to enable it to enhance its competitive advance and improve on its market share.

RH 2: Marketing strategies play a significant role in influencing the market share and growth of firms in the UK fashion industry such as Marks and Spencer

Research Objectives

RO 1: Identify and define marketing strategies as critical aspects in improving the market share and competitive advantage of firms in the UK fashion industry

RO 2: Explore the factors that lead firms such as Marks and Spencer to implement and adopt differentiated or undifferentiated marketing strategies in the UK fashion industry

RO 3: Identify specific or particular marketing strategies adopted Marks and Spencer to enhance its market share, and improve its dominant position

RO 4: Scrutinize the impacts of marketing activities in the overall growth and market share of Marks and Spencer in the UK fashion industry.

RO 5: Evaluate the contributions of the marketing strategies to the overall business strategy of Marks and Spencer

Research Methodology

Marketing strategies are fundamental aspects in any business organization and they play critical roles in determining the level of productivity and profitability, the level of competitive advantage, and in influencing the market share and dominance. It is through marketing strategies that organizations are capable of realizing its stipulated goals and objectives. Other than these factors, marketing strategies are necessary for shaping the overall picture of an organization and the manner it presents itself to the outside community. Over the past few years, the UK fashion industry has undergone tremendous transformations and new firms, both domestic and international, have rolled out operations with the aim of capitalizing on the available profitable opportunities. As such, the market has become increasingly competitive making it difficult for less competitive firms to survive. Although each firm utilizes its own marketing strategies, it remains unclear, in particular as efforts to understand the type of marketing strategies employed by firms in industry.

This research proposal aims to explore the type of marketing strategies adopted by firms in the UK fashion industry with particular focus being given to the marketing strategies adopted by Marks and Spencer.

Research philosophy

This research proposal will utilize the positivist research philosophy based on the foundation of factors that can be observed within the UK fashion industry. Under this philosophy, such observable factors will be used in the generalization of issues just in the same manner as if the way physical and natural scientists used observable phenomenon to generalize on particular issues (Denzin, 2006). The researcher in this study will utilize the propositions of objective analysis to make generalizations based on the evidence or data collected from the field research. This philosophy will guide the research being proposed in this study to place focus on structured methodologies and objectives as a way of facilitating replication of information in addition to placing emphasis on much quantifiable features that can be related to statistical analysis of aspects. This philosophy is ideal because it enables the researcher to be distant and less influential on the outcomes of the research thereby facilitating reliability.

Research Approaches

This research study will utilize both deductive and inductive research approaches. The deductive approach will be applicable given that the idea of marketing strategies of firms in the UK fashion industry such as Marks and Spencer will be examined and verified using data obtained from the study. The deductive approach will also be necessary to enable the study to follow particular sequences and stages before arriving at valid findings. Inductive approaches entail the process of collecting, analyzing, and refining data to provide future directions for further research.

Research Participants

This research will be undertaken in Westminster City, London and it will involve conducting interviews with a portion of employees, marketing managers, and customers at the main branch in Westminster. This region was selected because it is the headquarters of Marks and Spencer, and hence, a lot of information can be obtained from the selected participants. Other information will be obtained from secondary sources such as the review of literature to obtain general information relating to the industry.

Research validity and reliability

Validity in this research proposal will be obtained by ensuring accuracy in measurement processes, assessment instruments, and ensuring the realization of stipulated objectives. Concerning reliability, measures will be taken to ensure that repeated assessment or measurement will yield the same results provided the same conditions will be maintained (Blumberg, Cooper, and Schindler, 2005).

Relationship among research items

Research items in this proposal are designed in a manner that the main research aim will be addressed through the formulation specific research questions are supported by the formulated objectives and hypotheses (Yin, 2003). As such, all research items will be interrelated at one stage within the research process and they will all be critical addressing the aim of the study and providing answers to research objectives and questions.

Appropriateness of triangulation

As mentioned above, data reliability and validity will be some of the most significant aspects that will be allocated much priority in this research study. Realizing such objectives will involve the process of mixing different methods of data or data assessment methods in order to ascertain whether different results or viewpoints can be obtained from this study (Simon and Vosseberg, 2001). Additionally, the study will involve mixing different data collection strategies given that marketing managers, customers, and employees of Marks and Spencer will be interviewed. Majority of senior managers can only be reached through mail questionnaires. These factors calls for the adoption of a triangulation approach to facilitate the mixing of different research studies.

Timescale

The timescale for this research proposal is represented in the Gantt Chart below:

Gantt Chart

timescale

For purposes of facilitating this research study, specific resources and research materials will be…

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