Dressing a nation

With more than 850 stores, Marks & Spencer champions Merino wool across the United Kingdom

The Fibre

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Having started out as a penny bazaar at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884, Marks & Spencer has grown into a major multinational retailer with more than 1330 stores in 59 countries.

In the United Kingdom, the company has a 9% share of the womenswear market and 10.8% of the menswear market, with a significant amount of the apparel being made from Merino wool. In 2014/15 alone, the company used some 1.5 million metres of wool or wool-blend cloth, making it certainly the largest British retailer in terms of wool usage, evidenced with its core range of products as well special collections, such as its recent collaboration with Baartmans & Siegel.

“We have been using wool in our collections for 90 years, and this season alone we will have over three million wool items,” explained a company spokesperson of the sheer volume of the retail operation. “Our customers rely on us for quality and integrity, and wool – with its natural characteristics of durability, warmth and comfort – is a clear brand fit.” The company uses the Australian-grown fibre in much of its clothing – such as suiting and outerwear – as well as homewares. One of its best-selling items is a pure lambswool jumper that is both machine-washable and tumble-dryable, and comes in 20 colour options.

The demand for wool, says Marks & Spencer, is driven by customers’ interest in sustainability and quality. “As a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre, wool meets their needs.” These properties were celebrated at a recent event held by The Campaign for Wool and the International Wool Textile Organisation that saw the signing of the Dumfries House Wool Declaration. Witnessed by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Patron of The Campaign for Wool, the declaration was created to ensure that key players – from woolgrowers to shop owners – commit to protecting the environment and uphold best possible practices for sheep welfare. “Marks & Spencer is proud to support this worthwhile endeavor to encourage awareness of the benefits of wool.” 

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