Matalan’s mixed messages

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Last Friday I attended Ladies’ Day at Aintree Racecourse. Having become something of a regular over the past few years, it’s become clear that the only sport us ladies (and the Daily Mail) REALLY care about on the day is power-dressing.

The Matalan-sponsored style contest is always a highlight of Ladies’ Day. The pull of the substantial prize – a holiday for two in Saint Lucia, £5,000 cash, over £1,000 of vouchers and a Matalan photo shoot – is enough to make thousands of female racegoers wait for hours to register. But, what really makes the women of the North West queue for miles around the ‘style enclosure’ is the fact that this is a contest open to all. Having been judged by Coleen Rooney, champion of ‘real women’, until this year, Matalan’s style contest is judged on how you look, not how much you’ve spent. According to Matalan’s marketing manager, the great thing about the competition is “that it’s about style rather than fashion”, i.e. it doesn’t matter what your outfit cost or where it’s from.

I was therefore a little surprised when, this year, 33-year-old Lystra Adams triumphed, wearing a Vivienne Westwood suit, Prada shoes, a Christian Louboutin bag and a towering hat hand-made by York milliner Dawn Guibert. I think Matalan might have its marketing messages muddled.

Surely the idea of a discount fashion retailer championing a ‘style’ contest at an event attended, mostly, by ‘Joe public’, is a great marketing platform for Matalan to shout: “Look! You don’t need loads of dosh to have style! See how fabulous you can look without spending gazzilions on your outfit. If you shop at Matalan you can afford to look this stylish everyday!”

Instead, race horse owner and designer diva Lystra, will now feature in the chain’s new adverts. I’m sure she’s someone that every Matalan shopper, frantically scouring the racks for a cheapo ten quid dress for Friday night, can really identify with.