M&S: could this be the great web rescue?

How the web may just save the high-street's old favourite...

How the web may just save the high-street's old favourite...

Marks and Spencer is so much more than a household name, it's a UK institution. But somewhere along the way this clothing and food retailer got lost. It failed to connect with its core customers and its closure programme for European branches had nasty knock-on effects on its reputation. It is desperately trying to claw back the huge popularity it once enjoyed, and there are signs there's life in the old dog yet. Analysis by Segue Software on 10 e-tail sites ranked M&S number one. For a company struggling in the bricks and mortar world, this is fairly impressive. Over a period of a week, it never took more than 10 seconds to download the home page. The average time was just 2.65 seconds. Compare that with 19.4 for the Sainsbury's site. Users don't want to have to wait around just to view the products, let alone purchase them. When you need new knickers, you don't expect to them to get in a twist hanging around. The company has made a definite effort to get its website ship-shape for Christmas. That's a wise move. More than 4,500 products are available online, 1,000 of which are targeting Christmas shoppers. This is a fundamental move for M&S. It's not just making its site look pretty, it's giving customers real-time access to product availability. And that's a classic sign a company has integrated its ecommerce strategy into the workings of its overall business. But they say the proof is in the pudding and the Christmas season will be the true judge of the site's worth. If it gets this right we might just see a touching web rescue.