High Street stalwart, Marks & Spencer has reported a slump in profits by a third, and like for like sales also down sharply. Basically, customers are not shopping there as often as they did – and the CEO was interviewed on BBC saying that it was the general economic climate etc as people trade down a bit.

Nope – its the lack of free carrier bags which is driving people away.

I range across a fair number of shops depending on my mood, and if I choose to go into a premium brand store, then I expect a premium service. Frankly, that includes providing decent carrier bags for my shopping – and not charging for them. Also, it helps if the bags offered are slightly more substantial than a sheet of tissue paper. I am always terrified that the M&S plastic bags will break if I put anything heavier than a sandwich in them.

Yes, they are being eco-friendly etc., but the fact is that I tend to reuse my plastic bags for holding rubbish, and if I don’t have them then I only have to go out and buy some bin liners instead, which is hardly a saving. I know people will complain about plastic bags being washed up in rivers and sea shore, but that is not an automatic end-result from shops handing out plastic bags, but is the result the stupid humans who can’t be bothered to dispose of them properly.

I do own a nice cloth bag (with comfy handles!), but it doesn’t fold up nicely – and is branded as Waitrose – so I tend to only use it when I want to go for a big shopping trip, and generally only if going to Waitrose or the Borough Market. If I am on the way home in the evening, tired and really just not in the mood to cook – I’ll grab a pizza or similar when I get to Canary Wharf.

Do I go to M&S or Tesco? Before the stupid carrier bag debacle, I would pop into M&S as it is closer – but now I walk a bit further and go to Tesco as frankly I really do object to a retailer dictating its eco-credentials to me in the way M&S does.

A fair number of my friends think the same – and so I am not surprised to see M&S sales declining like this.


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  1. Caroline says:

    Agreed! If it’s not a planned trip and I don’t have an empty bag with me, having to pay for really poor quality bags definitely puts me off.

  2. I rarely shop at M&S and so had been oblivious to their policy until I was caught out at the weekend.

    I “popped” over to Westfield to take a look and picked up something to eat from M&S. I used the self-scan machines and was astounded when they asked me how many bags I had taken at the end. If I recall correctly, they wanted to charge me 5p for a flimsy, tiny bag. I took my item out of its bag, pressed the “zero” button and resolved never to shop there again.

  3. I disagree, and I applaud M&S’s stance in the face of the government’s unwillingness to do anything about the public’s carefree attitude to carrier bags, although perhaps M&S needs to rethink the quality of its bags if they are not suitable for purpose. On the whole I think it is a policy decision that should be supported – despite the irony that M&S food stores by their very nature, full of convenience foods, do seem to churn out much more other packaging waste than your average store.
    I accept the argument that some people re-use carriers as bin bags, but I would wager that even these people have a cupboard full of plastic bags that can’t be reused because they are too big, too small, too flimsy, etc etc. I always try and carry a ‘bag for life’ type carrier or cloth bag with me – I’m not sure I really understand Ian’s reluctance to use his Waitrose bag in another supermarket! – and when I don’t have one with me, I accept the fact that I have to buy one. This policy is certainly forcing people to think differently about their need for packaging – the fact that Richard was going to use a bag for a single item, and then found he didn’t ‘need’ it when faced with a charge, demonstrates this quite clearly.

  4. Darren Bertram says:

    As I always have a holdall style bag on me – carrying important things like gym gear, lunch, house keys etc – I always have the bags for life stashed away in there for use at an appropriate time and in the appropriate store. There are two things that irk me: 1) Tesco and Sainsbury offer you an extra reward point for every bag you reuse – this rarely happens. Should it really be down to me to point out the tedium of their basic job duties? 2) Especially in the “metros” and “locals” the staff in there are stashing your shopping in their awful plastic bags before you even have a chance to open your gob! Again, is it down to me to point out their company policy to them?

    My last thought is: bags for life are more comfortable to carry, more stable and there’s no excuse for not having one on your person!

  5. Tim says:

    I totally agree. There is something extremely annoying about buying premium food stuff in small supply (but too much too carry in your hands) as an ad-hock on the way home event. And the €#*¥#y check-out person decides to give you the eco guilt trip or else pay! It’s a step too far, we have fallen foul of this far too many times and now actively avoid M&S and go to Waitrose. Silly silly people.

  6. SIMON says:

    I really didn’t mind paying 5p for a bag so long as its adequate to carry the items I buy from M&S, today I purchased several items and wanted to purchase a large bag, M&S said they were out of stock and continued to stuff seven items of clothes into a small bag that they charged me for, this bag broke as I left the tills. Its not customers fault there is no stock of large bags yet they want to charge you 5p for a 2nd small bag. I refused. I then went in Primark and the Manager there saw I was struggling and offered a Large Primark bag free to transfer my M&S goods into.

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