Expert view: Now firms need old M&S values

By Elissa Bayer, July 18, 2008

When I entered the City in September 1972, the markets were riding high and Marks & Spencer stood for core British values — quality and integrity. Fast forward to where we are now, and life is not so good.

The gloom-and-doom pundits are having their day. In 1972, banks were lending money without too much thought, markets were booming and property could only go one way. By the end of the year, property had fallen, markets tumbled and secondary banks started to disappear. Yet M&S stood firm, offering quality goods and underwear staples to a bemused public.

Today, the credit crisis that began in the US has spread globally and the financial sector is bleeding daily. The banks have now stopped lending, causing more problems, particularly to property and housing. Retail has been hit, as people worry about job losses and rising prices.

So put the new handbag on hold, as basics become more important.Today, M&S struggles as other stores offer similar quality at a lower price.

Core British values have seen a downturn, and innovation, fair trade and the youth cult have all been in the ascendancy. The current situation is going to carry on for a while.

Nobody would disagree, but there is much to learn from the past decades — and never has it been more true that core values do count. What goes up cannot do so for ever.

Elissa Bayer is an investment manager at Charles Stanley.

Last updated: 4:05pm, September 16 2008