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Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 09:27 GMT

Business: The Company File

St Michael falls out of fashion

The company wants to refurbish its image

Marks and Spencer, once the UK's favourite clothing retailer, is considering ditching its own-brand St Michael label to pep up its image.

The company has seen sales plummet during the last year, as it expensively misjudged fickle fashion tastes and grossly over-stocked on clothes that could not be moved off the shelves.

[ image: A new, trendy image?]
A new, trendy image?
Fans of St Michael, like former Prime Minister John Major who famously confessed to wearing M&S own-brand underwear, will have to stock up on their boxershorts before the label is replaced with designer brands.

The new M&S chief executive, Peter Salsbury, said the company was "looking ... closely" at what to do with the St Michael brand. He said it "would be quite a departure for us" to abandon the label.

Designer brands?

Marks and Spencer is considering replacing St Michael with internationally known designer brands. At the moment, the St Michael label is used to sell all kinds of M&S products, ranging from woolly jumpers to low-fat yogurt.

In the UK, the name Marks and Spencer stands for high quality products - but not for high fashion, and last year's sales fiasco has been linked to the company's staid image. Many well-known designers may think twice whether they want to become the St Michael successor.

St Daniel Hechter? St Calvin Klein? St Tommy Hilfiger? Maybe not.

After a bitter boardroom fight, Mr Salsbury is now trying to refashion the company. Last week he announced the sacking of a quarter of Marks & Spencer's top managers; 31 were made redundant, among them three directors.

St Michael may be the next one to go.

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