Lynne Coleman said shoppers should be prepared to pay a bit more for clothing to save “bricks and mortar” stores and ultimately high streets from collapse.
Brexit, Covid, and high street malaise have been cited as factors faced by M&Co, founded in Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1834, which is now to close all 170 outlets within months, with the expected loss of around 2,000 jobs.
The move comes after the company previously fell into administration in 2020 when the majority of the estate was saved, with 47 stores and 380 jobs lost at the time, before administrators again took control towards the end of last year.
The retailer’s recent change of direction, towards selling more expensive, trendier clothes, is also thought to have contributed to its demise.
“For me this story proves that although we are moaning about the death of the high street, as consumers we are not sticking up for it either,” said Ms Coleman.
“The thing that really struck me, similar to the Debenhams and the Top Shops and the death of our high street is that all of these models have fallen victim to the evolution of how we consume.
“When you think about what you are having to pay out in physical bricks and mortar.
“It’s the same story with Jenners,” she said.
“Jenners was barely making any profit because that building was so expensive to run.
“The last ten years, post-Covid, everyone has just been caught in the hamster wheel of that.
“The people who owned the buildings, the people who were taking the leases, the councils have a huge part to play in this too,” added the Glasgow-born fashion writer who has worked with major brands including Burberry, Chanel, Mulberry and Liberty of London.
“Councils would still be taking a huge amount in rates.
“The end consumer just goes through the door and thinks ‘this t-shirt is too expensive’ but that t-shirt has to pay for all the staff that are on the floor, the electricity, the rates, the mortgage.”
Debenhams announced it was entering into liquidation on December 1 2020 after consecutive years running at a loss and was bought by the Boohoo group a month later.
Other brands under the Arcadian Group followed in turn, ASOS went on to acquire Topshop, at the expense of putting 19,000 people out of their jobs.
M&Co, which began life as a pawnbroker, has been acquired by Peterborough-based AK Retail Holdings, which owns Yours Clothing, for an undisclosed sum in a deal that did not include the physical stores.
As well as a high street staple, M&Co, which had been owned by the McGeoch family, was also an important retailer in rural and island towns from Ayr to Stornoway.
The company chose to open in towns because it did not have to compete with the larger chains.
“That’s the thing that is really sad about it is we forget that when we are picking up about the something [from M&Co) that’s how the 15-year-old gets her Saturday job,” said Ms Coleman.
“It’s the community of that. They have gone into smaller places to be part of a community.
“It seems like that way of living and how we have a seismic shift is the reason why these things keep happening.
“Why you see people setting up Etsy stores and Ebay – it’s the next generation of what our high street looks like.
“Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres are a mess, it’s just charity shop after charity shop. I love a charity shop but that’s not going to be sustainable for a high street.
“I don’t know what the next five years looks like.”