M&S’s see now, buy now move is a small, but significant step

Marks & Spencer has jumped on the “see now, buy now” bandwagon and just released a capsule from its AW16/17 collection to buy now from its website. The high street giant previewed the full AW16/17 collection to members of the press today and announced consumers would be able to purchase a select range of products immediately.

A range containing 22 products was made available to buy and includes some stand out pieces such as cropped leather trousers, a reversible suede jacket and an animal print maxi dress (see above), along with more basic pieces such as vest tops and a silk shirt. Prices for the see now, buy now collection range from £12.50 to £249.

Cropped leather trousers
Buy now: Cropped leather trousers


For the main AW16/17 collection, the retailer showed a confident trend-led collection which was packed with up-to-the-minute detail executed in a desirable and wearable style, such as sweaters with shoulder-cutouts, raw-edge stepped hem denim, metallic sun-ray pleat midi skirts and lots of leather from jackets to a striking berry, tie-waist skirt for Per Una.

Buy now: split-sleeve jacket
Buy now: split-sleeve jacket

See now, buy now origins

The so-called “see now, buy now” movement has been spearheaded by designer brands, who have been experimenting with releasing a selection of product for immediate sale at the same time as the following season’s collection is shown on the catwalk.

Due to blanket coverage of catwalks on social media, some brands have decided it makes no sense to make customers wait six months for collections and to strike while the iron and consumer desire is hot. Burberry was the first to truly shake things up by announcing earlier this year that it was eschewing the old seasonal structure and would sell catwalk collections, henceforth named February and September, direct to the consumer as soon as they are shown.

Several other designer brands, such as Tom Ford and Vetements, have since followed suit with similar announcements. Though not everyone has been convinced to make the switch. Kering-owned Gucci recently revealed it would be combining its men’s and women’s shows from next year but it was sticking with see now, buy later. François-Henri Pinault, Kering CEO, had said just weeks before the Gucci announcement that he didn’t believe in see now, buy now for luxury and that showing in advance only heightened customer desire.

Solving a high street problem

Marks & Spencer is the first high street brand to use the expression to describe a collection. The move could be seen by some as a mere marketing ploy as the product in the see now, buy now offer is more trans-seasonal than next season. However M&S’s size and influence could cause other major retailers to follow suit.

Marks & Spencer
M&S goes see now, buy now

Of course the high street is not exposed to the same social media frenzy as the catwalks, so previews of next season’s collections are often contained to the press who may release a small number of images in advance but often not entire collections as happens with catwalks. But the approach to release more transitional product as a prelude to the main collection – the high street version of the Pre Collection if you will – could help deal with another issue… the weather.

British retailers in particular have struggled with defined fashion seasons due to the unpredictability of the weather and unregulated sale periods mean discounting is prevalent across our high streets year-round. Prices of current season stock can end up being slashed shortly after dropping in-store if sell-through levels are not high enough, which is often down the wrong type of product being available at the wrong time (coats in July anyone?) and of course, the customer is now conditioned to buy at discount.

At 22 products only, the M&S step into see now, buy now is a small one but it could prove to be a very significant one indeed.