Marks and Spencer moves to mute in-store music: Why it may not be the best idea

Marks and Spencer

Retail giant Marks and Spencer is planning to switch off music at all its UK retail stores after suffering “unsatisfactory” sales in the last financial year.

Its iconic pipe rhythms will no longer serenade customers who instead will be welcomed with silence at its 300 UK stores, according to

“We’re focused on putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, this decision is the result of extensive research and feedback from our customers and colleagues,” a spokesperson from Marks and Spencer said.

In the past, research has shown music can motivate impulse buying and plays an influential role in buying behaviour.

In light with this, David Gordon, a retail expert and managing partner at LZR Partners, doesn’t expect the “experiment” to last.

“Retailers focus on the buying experience, the customer experience, and the customer experience includes all the variables within the store which is layout, design, noise, music, service so to exclude music,” Gordon told SmartCompany.

“Marks and Spencer management must have had some very, very negative feedback for them to consider this.”

Retail Oasis senior strategist Pippa Kulmar also feels it’s an odd move given the evocative power music can have on consumers.

“It’s interesting because a lot of stores are moving to that sensory environment,” she told SmartCompany.

Kulmar says incorporating scent, look and feel into physical retail stores is what helps these businesses differentiate from online competitors.

Give control to the customer

As an alternate strategy, Kulmar suggests retailers could give customers a chance to choose the music that plays while they shop.

With the rise of streaming platforms such as Spotify and Pandora, it’s an idea Kulmar is surprised she hasn’t seen yet in stores.

“More and more we’re letting the consumer control their experience but it’s taking that a little bit further,” she says.

Selecting the right music for your store

For Australian retailers, Gordon says store managers and operators should select appropriate music for their customers.

“The retailers that I’m involved in are very particular and very thoughtful as to what type of music they play in their stores,” he says.

“The retail operations manager with his area managers understand what type of customer they have and they pick the appropriate music in their opinion – it’s a subjective decision.”

When selecting music for a store, Kulmar says the tunes should match what the business wants to portray as a brand.

“It’s about matching music to the mood you want to evoke in the customer,” she says.

“No one wants phonetic music in the stores unless you really want to make the customer anxious.”


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Roland Lever
Roland Lever
5 years ago

Supermarket music is distracting, and makes me wanrt to get out ASAP.
Fragrance is dumb – the shop has its own smell that customers bond with, or not.
It’s also a chronic health risk for employees trapped in the shop while working.