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M&S dumps own-brand policy to halt sales slide

Published:  23 July, 2008

In a dramatic bid to boost ailing food-and-drink sales, Marks & Spencer has begun to trial the selling of top food-and-drink brands in 19 of its stores in the north east of England.

The list of new drinks brands in- store includes Fosters Lager, Smirnoff Red and Baileys.

Following a bleak profits warning last week, the upmarket retailer has put 140 branded lines on its shelf, abandoning for the first time its longstanding own-label-only policy.

The branded goods are being supplied by Booker Cash and Carry. A Booker spokesperson said: "We can provide the full range of branded beers and spirits, as well as a good range of branded wines. What M&S takes is up to them."

Commenting on the move, a spokesperson for Diageo Great Britain, said: "We are thrilled to be part of the M&S test on branded goods, and will work closely with them to ensure the trial is managed efficiently and consumers can benefit from being able to purchase our brands within a select number of M&S stores."

Diageo confirmed that its brands to be stocked are: 70cl Archers, Baileys, Bell's, Gordon's, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Morgan Spiced, Pimm's, Smirnoff Red, Talisker 10 year old, Cragganmore 12 year old, Dalwhinnie 15 year old and packs of 4 x 440ml Guinness Draught.

Pernod Ricard will have Jameson, The Glenlivet, Martell, Malibu and Tia Maria going into M&S.

Stuart Whitwell, joint managing director of brand valuation consultancy, Intangible Business, said: "M&S wine brands are already quite confusing. They do small brands like Tyrells, and they have until now been champions of the small producers, adding their own name to the bottle.

"Big wine brands are a big area of growth, so I'm sure they would want to have them in," he added.

"But I think they are putting in the big brands as a reaction to the current market conditions and not because it's a well thought-out strategy. They'll lose their cachet if they go down the road of Hardys.