But, when it does well, people complain. And when it doesn't do well, people complain. That is the true barometer - if people are complaining then actually we're doing alright and the world hasn't burned yet. In recent years, it hasn't been doing well and yet I've never bought more or wanted to buy more from them than I have in recent years. There's specific reasons why.
1. Their pants are the best. Don't @ me.
Reader, allow me to be intimate for a moment. I very rarely wear any other sort of pants apart from supremely sensible black cotton ones. Now we're that bit closer, let's continue.I briefly (ha!) dallied with buying my pants from Primarni labouring under the false economy that paying £2.50 for a pack of 5 pants that would fall apart rather rapidly was better than paying £6 for a pack from M&S. FOOLISH GIRL! Never compromise on pants. Find the ones that are the most comfortable and invest in them. Life is too short to skimp on such necessities.
2. Their jeans are really good
Waistbands that sit where they should. A decent range of colour and cut. Enough elastene in the skinny ones that you don't cut your circulation off. And not ridiculously expensive. Not all jeans are created equal but there is absolutely no point paying more for them unless you have to and with M&S jeans, I don't believe you have to.
3. The Autograph and Limited Edition collections do wearable fashion
Fashion mags have twigged on to the fact that, actually, there's wearable takes on current fashion trends that people might actually buy and now regularly feature the key pieces from each season that M&S produce. Yes, the fashion mag picks are good but don't ignore the rest.
4. Their celebrity collaborations make sense
Some high street collabs seem forced and make absolutely no sense but M&S's don't. Allow me to explain. In the same way that for 90s girls, Kate Moss will forever be our supermodel, Twiggy is the same to 60s girls. And those girls may well now be in their 50s and 60s but in their heads, there's still a part of them that is a gamine ingenue with ridiculous lashes and legs that beg to be shown off in a mini skirt and knee high boots. They *know* that they're older but Twiggy is older with them and so it makes sense to them. As it should.
5. The beauty department is as exciting as a French pharmacy
One of the things I love most about going abroad is browsing the pharmacies and beauty stores to look at new and exotic things that I might not ever buy. Yes, I know I can find these things online but there's nothing like picking up a bottle and having a sniff or a test on the back of your hand. The M&S beauty department goes from budget to luxe and everywhere in between and is a comforting mix of brands you've heard of and exciting ones you probably haven't unless you're a true beauty obsessive. I don't know about your local store but mine does feel like browsing a Parisian pharmacy and that makes me very happy indeed.
There's also specific things it does wrong - they need to scrap Per Una immediately and there's actually too much choice within parts of the main ranges (excluding Limited Edition and Autograph as you'd expect). And yes, some of the actual stores are so tired and in desperate need of a makeover but hopefully these are problems they can overcome because the rest is great.