The range will bring 800 new and current lines under one "easy to recognise" label with hundreds of existing prices lowered.
Packaging will be largely transparent to show off the food with the remaining design being themed around shopping list style labelling.
To get the message out about the range M&S started a television campaign on Saturday featuring the strapline ‘M&S quality now at prices you’ll love’.
Here are the reactions of experts from the retail marketing industry.
Darren Keen, managing director, MARS\Y&R
There’s much that is unusual about M&S’s decision to create and heavily market their value range. Not ‘bad unusual’ though.
Unusual in the sense that shoppers and retailers are faced with the unknowns of a double-dip and the unprecedented buyer behaviours that will result. It will be unusual for shoppers to grasp an image of M&S as anything but premium given their long-standing relationships with each other.
And unusual for M&S to sway more heavily towards price in their primary messaging. No doubt they will bang the drum on quality, but they are joining the highly single-focused discount-slanging match in doing this whether they like it or not.
What’s not unusual is M&S’s board decision in needing to do this: It’s a solid strategy both in identifying the current realities of even their staunchest of regulars as well as offering olive-branching permissibility for the broader shopper-sphere that normally saves M&S for special occasions. The range also neatly addresses the increasing shift in more frequent, smaller ‘for tonight’ basket shops.
Overall a smart move, but I suspect the in-house M&S analysts are sweating a little about prospective regular-range cannibalisation. M&S’s next smart move needs to focus on introducing a loyalty CRM platform if they really want to play successfully in this space.
Jamie Matthews, CEO, Initials Marketing
Marks & Spencer is entering a cluttered market, late. Traditional category development of new sectors favours the brand that gets there first, and they will earn the most amount of incremental share.
Waitrose entered this space two years ago and has done very well from it, winning the Marketing Society’s Grand Prix award. This is because it introduced its Essential range during the introduction of austerity and a wave budget cutting.
Two years later, consumers are used to living on a budget and are much savvier about the deals they buy into. They are also wasting less, purchasing on a convenience basis. Sainsbury’s campaigns like ‘Love your Leftovers’ and more recently ‘Live well for less’ have helped to facilitate this kind of behaviour, and consumers are now making much more informed decisions about what, when and where they purchase.
Up until now, Marks & Spencer has made some quite valuable introductions to the business. It has a popular lunch-to-go concept and the introduction of branded goods two years ago made sense. But there isn’t anything of difference or value with Simply M&S, so I’d expect their gains to be small if anything at all.
Initials Marketing works with Sainsbury's
Danielle Pinnington, managing director, Shoppercentric
"In the boom times M&S was developing a strong role as a premium food retailer with a growth in shoppers using Simply Foods as their main grocer. As the economic downturn hit M&S came up with the innovative ‘Dine in for £10’, which was very successful at delivering a treat solution which could replace meals out.
"The issue now is that shoppers continue to find their budgets under pressure, and M&S need to tap into those shoppers who want quality but are more cautious about how much they are prepared to spend to get quality.
"In fact the move to branding an entry price range as Simply M&S reflects the growing polarisation of spending. On the one hand shoppers are willing to pay for quality in those categories that are important to them, or support their interpretation of quality of life. On the other hand shoppers are also looking to manage their budgets by economising on the essentials.
"Perhaps the surprise is how long it has taken M&S to make this move. Waitrose launched Essentials in 2009 for the same reason, and Sainsbury’s have credited their Taste the Difference and Basics ranges as supporting their strong figures this month."
Shoppercentric works with Morrisons and Sainsbury's on an ad hoc basis
Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive, Savvy Marketing
The M&S launch follows hot on the heels of the revamp of Tesco’s value range, the revamp of Morrison’s value range with its stronger packaging and compelling pricing and the announcement by Waitrose that their shoppers no longer need to worry about buying their everyday staples as they will always match the price of Tesco and Sainsbury.
The point is the shopper has become savvier. They no longer want to pay more than they have to for the basics and they won’t. The squeezed middle don’t want to be embarrassed by naff value packaging they want something that looks good and does the job at the right price. It’s a debit and credit mindset - save where you can so you can spend when you want.
Retailers like M&S have to ensure that they dissuade permanent down-trade into these value ranges by providing a real alternative to trade up through newness, excellence and inspiration in products.
Given their shopper base and food hall dynamics I am sure M&S can and will do this, but their supermarket competitors have much to consider as the shopper actively down trades, bypassing many longstanding brands and leaving the days of good, better, best range architecture behind.
Simon Gore, UK managing director, Holmes & Marchant
This is a fairly obvious move for Marks & Spencer and has a real ‘me-too’ feel about it. The naming of the range ‘Simply M&S’ makes sense and has transparency – it tells the consumer this is our simplest range but with M&S quality.
However, what consumers might find confusing is the fact Marks & Spencer already has a retail outlet called ‘M&S Simply Food’ which can be found in BP Connects up and down the country. There is also some confusion over the branding of this new range in the statement: ‘M&S quality. Simply priced’ – what exactly does that ‘simply priced’ mean?
In terms of the packaging design, it’s ok, not ground-breaking, but M&S always plays it safe and on-trend.
The use of the shopping list is rather old fashioned but is indicative of the essential items you would have on your weekly shopping list and the design is in tune with Marks & Spencer branding.
Follow Matthew Chapman at @mattchapmanUK