Photo: Marks & Spencer
Marks and Spencer will turn off piped-in music in its 300 stores in response to noise complaints from customers.
M&S said in a statement released to media outlets, “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.”
With no further explanation, some felt the reason to eliminate music was to reduce costs following a tough 2015. The Telegraph said it costs £1,600 ($2,300) annually per 10,000 meters.
Others felt it was due to the retailer’s aging customer base — increasingly dealing with hearing problems and dementia — who are sensitive to noise. A broader reason was simply the annoyance of repetitive playlists and loud music being played at retail.
“Millions of customers will be delighted by this news,” said Pipedown, a lobbying group which pushed for the move, on its website. “So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years.”
Pipedown also wants prerecorded music banned, or at least the volume lowered, at restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals and pubs because the noise causes stress and ruins conversations.
On the downside, the silence, as The Guardian notes, “may give some of M&S’s sadder stores a graveyard air.”
The changes take place despite studies showing that music often boost sales. Music, according to the reports, can quicken the speed of sales, extend browsing time, and get people in a good mood to spend more. Themed tunes, such as Christmas music, can encourage seasonal selling.
M&S may have been playing contemporary music to attract a younger audience at the risk of annoying its older clientele. Department stores face challenges developing the right playlist for young and old shoppers. Speaking to The Guardian, Julian Treasure, chairman of Sound Agency, said retailers trying to reach a wide age group often “end up with bland, middle-of-the-road pop and lounge music. It’s very generic, very mindless.”