Target, the big box retailer, is selling a list of 15 Christmas food items from Marks & Spencer, my all-time favorite(u)rite store in Britain. The line, available in stores and online, is heavy on collectible tins, including one that’s a music box and one that looks like a two-seater bus. If you, for some reason, are sick of your tins of Christmas cookies not doubling as decorations at home, easy relief – prayers answered. For anyone wondering why Target is ordering holiday collections from the British grocer, let me explain.
Here’s what you need to know about the British supermarket chain: Unlike in the US, where the beloved local stores have been consolidated into a few dominant ones that have kept local products, which led to global uniformity, the big ones here. they are often independent and individualistic in their industry. And yet Britain is small enough to be, effectively, a single, trade-wise region. His entire chain of recognition is the concern of the world.
Tesco is where you get a Cornetto at 9:50 pm on a Sunday night when you’re a little tipsy after being in the park all day. Asda is a bigger and less aggressive Tesco. The iconic orange monolith of Sainsbury’s represents the essence of Britain. The Co-op has a charm for everyone, and they also do funerals? Waitrose sits at the top of the heap, the best-looking of the bunch, its trademark green like the grass of Buck House, where the king who sells his berries lives.
M&S is close to this. It was developed from its origins as an Oxford Street shopping hall, so its food and grocery stores, also known as “grocery,” still live in the neighborhood. In the UK, M&S is known for being high quality but affordable. (In its underwear department, it is known to sell the best underwear.)
Announcing the agreement, Food & Wine compared M&S to its new friend, but I find that more Trader Joe’s than Target. Like Trader Joe’s, M&S mainly sells its own version of everything; its seasonality of strange things is once strong; it veers wildly in ways that are universally appealing and slightly disturbing; and there’s a surprising insider story spread throughout its retail spaces, if you know how to find it. For example, this year M&S celebrated the 30th birthday of its mascot, Percy the Pig, with a series of silly things and pink posters acknowledging him at Paddington station.
So, what’s the point of bringing M&S products to Target for the holidays? RetailWire reports that Target is looking to recreate its iconic fashion partnership in its retail department. M&S could be a good candidate because their products are not available in the US, which gives them a rare look that connects with Target. For a grocery chain it has a very strong brand identity – especially in Britain. One way it gets through is how inconsistent his Christmas bonanza is. As I don’t celebrate Christmas, the US tradition of Happy Holidays is always a success. In the UK, though, they don’t pretend there’s anything else to celebrate. And since many of today’s Christmas traditions are Victorian – like, like, popularized by Queen Victoria – M&S products bring a little bit of the British Christmas spirit to Target.
At its most powerful, the grocery arm of M&S operates a British aesthetic that makes cultural exports more important. Spaces include products such as West Country Luxury Yogurt in flavors such as strawberry and cream that evoke Arcadian Albion with its green pastures and soft fruit “Goblin Market”, and others such as the Indian Starter Selection Side Dish, which speaks to the country. post-Blairite and postcolonial (kind of) transformation into a modern global capital. Some British chains also sell international products, but M&S’s design makes it British and fun.
You may have read all this and thought, isn’t the whole of the United Kingdom a messed up place? Didn’t they name three leaders in four months? (Five if you count the kings, I think.) Wasn’t their wealth ruined? Didn’t they destroy themselves? So why do we need reminders of that?
It’s all true, and if it’s worth fantasizing in the name of journalism: If I were a world-renowned company that had already released a lot of Christmas products, but I’m still worried that I might not be able to sell to consumers whose money has dropped too much, maybe I’d try downloading it somewhere might have some cachet. Just for fun – I have no hard evidence for this. All I have is M&S Outstanding Value underwear that I bought in 2006, and it shows no signs of wear. So if you want to waste your money on things you don’t need, this is M&S.