Marks & Spencer launch MVNO

Originally uploaded by ew4n.

You know that the MVNO craze is over in the United Kingdom when Marks & Spencer, the once much loved chain of stores once synonymous with quality, value, convenience, enter the fray.

They screwed up monumentally, lost their way, tried to get cool and, generally speaking, have recovered from their shocking position of recent years.

……and they launched an MVNO. Well, when Tesco did it, it was cool. When Sainsburys did it, it was slightly wannabe. But when M&S limp out the door with it years later: Sorry, where were you? Where were you when the market was open, when entering the market with a fixed price (a la Tesco or EasyMobile) was a potentially useful move.

So the consultants have been in, I’m sure. The reports and strategy documents have been prepared.

Some bright spark in an M&S suit has, obviously, stood in front of the company’s board of directors and introduced the concept of mobile telephony to them. There will have been graphs showing usage trends. Folk from T-Mobile, curiously not wearing M&S suits, will have been paraded through the board room and offered rather nice M&S sandwiches, and perhaps some of those mini sausage rolls — possibly some of those mini egg roll things too.

Important people with grey hair will have mused over ‘this mobile thing’. Working committees will have sat through endless ‘but Tesco did this’ and ‘Sainsburys did that’ presentations — complete with whizzy logos and the odd gantt chart.

Saville Row tailored consultants will have described, in detail, the revenues that could be made. A bright spark, who took his jacket off to reveal some wickedly good looking braces with expensive cufflinks, will have spent 45 minutes hammering home the point that everyone walking into M&S has a mobile phone.

… and M&S could capture that market.

A team of enthusiastic M&S executives marked on the ‘fast track’ will have spent days and weeks agonising over the possible percentages of the market available for conversion.

Working teams and committees will have spend WEEKS comparing and contrasting price plans, revenue forecasts and research reports to establish that charging 15p a minute for calls and 10p a minute will be well received by the average M&S consumer. They’ll have dismissed out of hand the fact that while EasyMobile also charges 15p a minute for calls, no one texts.

Just like the know nothing Head of Marketing of Carphone Warehouse who, four years ago, explained to me that ‘nobody texts’, the M&S executives will have somehow decided that 10p a text is ‘a good deal’.

Well it isn’t. It’s not a good deal if you’re considering Pay As You Go.

10p a text is competitive if you’re in an 18 month contract with Vodafone which includes 500 texts free and charges you 12.5p per text after you exceed your bundle.

It is not competitive with other Pay As You Go services, namely Fresh & EasyMobile at 5p a text.


But not to worry. Those same executives will, together with some expensive consultants, have worked out that 10p a text will appeal to their target market segment.

Oh dear.

You can tell how important the M&S MVNO is by visiting their homepage. It’s nowhere to be seen. Quite right. I wouldn’t put it anywhere online either. Plus, I’d hide it away in the store so that no one sees that we were:

a) About 3 years too late
b) Stupid enough to launch an MVNO when almost everyone in the UK already has a phone
c) Stupid enough to target the shittest end of the market segment by flogging the shittest Nokias you can get — the ones everyone gives away in Christmas Crackers.
d) Stupid enough not to buy some proper mobile industry advice

This photo, taken by Alex of SendMyTxt at the weekend, is nothing short of shocking.


Seriously, is that the best Marks & Spencer can come up with? Did the directions to the shop floor team from the head office read:


1. Find the shittest stand you can.
2. Stick it somewhere boring where you’ve got a bit of space.
3. Put a few cardboard boxes of our shit Nokias on the stand. Array them casually — we want to show the customer that we’re hip, cool.
4. Position the point-of-sale material so that folk can’t actually read the back sign.
5. MAKE SURE people can read the material that says OUTSTANDING VALUE. That’s important.
6. Well done. You have now successfully completed the setup of the M&S MVNO stand.
7. If any customers asks ‘can I do photo messaging’, be sure to tell them ‘No’ and explain that ‘this is something we hope to offer in the future’.

[ I kid you not. Check out the M&S Mobile FAQ ]

Deary me.

So, T-Mobile have probably got a good deal out of it.

As for M&S Mobile? Well, my mother dumped her shitty Nokia because she wanted something that ‘looked good’. Doesn’t bode well for M&S.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

3 replies on “Marks & Spencer launch MVNO”

Have you heard the news this morning!? Vodafone are about to start selling underwear in their stores!! Apparently they had a team of consultants in who told them that 97.3% of people who came in to the shops wears underwear, and so for Vodafone to not be cashing in on that was missing a huge opportunity.



Had to check the date when I read this one to make sure it wasn’t April first.

Maybe M&S could offer pay as you go dial up internet access? I hear the Internet is going to be huge…….

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