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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
M&S plans clothes that talk
M&S fashion picture
Microchips could warn if the wash is too hot
Do you want someone to tell you if that smart new top you are buying will clash with other clothes?

Or perhaps an alarm to warn you that you are in danger of ruining a shirt by putting it on the wrong washing machine cycle?

Well, step forward Marks & Spencer.

The newly revived High Street store is thinking of investing heavily in microchips to give customers and staff a new range of information about clothes and food.

Chips with everything

Roger Holmes, who takes over as chief executive next week, says he wants to take advantage of technological advances.

He believes that, in the future, chips embedded in food packaging could alert staff to products that have passed their sell-by date.

The food could also be traced all the way through the chain.

Meanwhile chips embedded in clothing could allow shoppers to scan a garment in the changing room to see whether it matched or clashed with other clothes.

And once the items had been bought, the chip could warn people if they accidentally put the clothes onto the wrong washing machine cycle.

New generation

M&S says that microchips in food packaging and garments are just two of the ideas being considered at the moment.

The company says it has a "brains trust" of about 80 of the best innovators in the world working on new ideas.

The idea of putting microchips in clothing is already being looked at by George at Asda, according to retail analyst Robert Clark.

He believes that the big retailers are quite right to be working on ways of using new technology to appeal to the next generation of shoppers who have grown up in a hi-tech world.

"These things are absolutely meat and grist to the youth of today," he said.

Wonder bum

While research continues on the microchips, M&S says the next innovation to hit its stores in big numbers will be the washable dinner suit.

The retailer says it already stocks:

  • Genuine non-iron shirts

  • Fresh-feet socks that attack food odour

  • Men's blister-block socks

  • Women's wonder-bum tights

  • Non-polish shoes.

    M&S says it has always made innovation a priority.

    It introduced nylon in 1952.

    In the 1970s it began selling mix-and-match suits for men and colour-fast clothes.

    And it says it was one of the first High Street retailers to introduce lycra.

  • See also:

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