It has been thirteen years since Marks & Spencer, pulled out of the Dutch market due to poor sales, but the end of February marked its grand return to the Netherlands with the opening of its first flagship store in the Hague. The 52,000 square foot store has been open for a littleover a month now and over 350,000 customers have visited the store since its opening. FashionUnited decided to drop by and pay the store a visit to see what the customers think of the British department store' s revival.
Although it is fairly quiet in the store for a Wednesday morning, Liz, who is visiting her son in the Hague from the UK, thinks the new flagship store is "quite attractive." She attributes the stores quietness to the Nuclear Summit, which was held in the city last week and deterred the majority of the public from venturing far from home, as a number of roads had been closed off for safety reasons. "Besides its nice to be able to go shopping and take all the space and time you need," she adds, revealing that she is not much of a shopper. "[Overall] I think that they've done a really good job with the store, its has great offering from what I have seen so far and the cafe upstairs has a lovely 1950s feel and look to it." Liz admits she has always been a fan of M&S's food and lingerie, but points out that the prices do seem a little bit higher in the Netherlands than in the UK, so she'll probably be sticking to visiting her local M&S store back home.
M&S flagship store in the Hague: a piece of home for expatsAs a newly moved expat to the Hague from the UK, Careen is very happy to know that she can always pop into M&S for a little slice of home. "It's a nice store and all the staff have been really friendly and helpful," she says, whilst searching for a suitable coat to wear while biking. Whilst shopping back in the UK, she would usually visit John Lewis and Debenhams to see what they had to offer in comparison, but she has yet to settle on their dutch alternatives. One big plus for Careen in M&S' s new store is the large food hall on the ground floor. "Now I can always get scones, or crisps or crumpets whenever I like and don't have to wait until I go back to the UK." M&S food has always been one of Careen favorite aspects about M&S and she relieved that she does not have to wait for trips home to stock up on tea and biscuits. M&S revealed that since its opening, the Hague has become the number one store for crumpets and clotted cream, highlighting the large demand for its British food in the Netherlands.
However, some of the Dutch clientele do not seem to be too keen on its British food offering. Ingrid, who was first introduced to M&S when they opened their store in the Hague over ten years ago, is thrilled the British retailer has return but unlike her English counter-part Careen, she is not very impressed with the Food Hall. "I know I lot of people rave on about M&S's food, but I think that it is a little expensive here in the Netherlands and it's not very exclusive. There are other places in the Hague that sell crumpets, cookies, scones and such, so why should I buy it here?" Ingrid does note that she was quite fond of their food when she lived in Paris, as it felt more unique in the French capital, but in the Hague it does not hold the same appeal to her.
Nevertheless, Ingrid remains a fan of M&S. "The new store is beautiful, a job well done! I am quite an active person and I think that their sports and active wear are great value for money and they fit really well as well." She reveals that she has already visited the stores a number of times and on today's shopping trip she has picked out a white sports bra and pant set to take home. Although she is not too keen on all of M&S's clothing lines, she has always been able to find something that suits her style and budget. "I think that M&S has good quality clothing for what you pay, and I have always loved their lingerie." With Autograph currently accounting for 20 percent of M&S's general merchandising sales in the Hague, it seems that their clothing styles have made a positive impression on the both the dutch and international shoppers.
However, one clothing section of the flagship store that seems to have disappointed a number of M&S shoppers, is the children's section. "It's really small and they don't have a big selection," says Careen, adding that her daughter in particular is a bit of a tomboy and would undoubtedly dislike their girly offering. "My children go to the British School in the Hague and have to wear uniforms. So far it has not been particularly easy finding navy trousers and black shorts for them, but hopefully I will be able to order them online on M&S and then pick them up in store." Ingrid was also disenchanted with the lack of selection for children's wear and says she wishes they would have a larger offering to choose from, similar to their men and womenswear selection. Until then, she plans on sticking to their's womenswear offering.
Before leaving the store, FashionUnited spoke to Ingrid once more, who was standing in line to pay for another item. "Looks like I've found something else I like," she gushes while taking out her card to pay. With more shoppers beginning to stream into the store and lines forming at the fitting rooms and cash desks, it looks like M&S has been well received by all in the Hague. "We are delighted with our return to The Hague. It is a really exciting city for us with a strong brand awareness amongst customers having traded here previously. Our first full-line store in the Netherlands is well received by the The Hague and other Dutch customers," commented a M&S spokesperson.
Photos: Flagship store in the Hague