28 April, 2017

Ladies love us and we love them

We are delighted to announce that for the 7th year running, we have made it into the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2017! We are one of only 9 employers who have been recognised in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women every year since the list began. This recognises our commitment to progressing gender equality within our organisation and boasts our core value In Touch.

We know that success in business comes down to having the best women and men in the right positions, at every level, so this is what we are striving to do at M&S.  The Times has published a supplement this week which details the best employers for women in the UK.  Click here to view the full list.

We have made significant progress in this area over the last few years, investing in our senior women through mentoring, coaching, and the continuation of our Inspiring Speakers events. We have recently been running a series of professional development seminars designed around skills that research shows help women to progress, open to everyone. These were launched by the newly named Gender Equality Network on International Women’s Day with great success.

Inside M&S
21 April, 2017

Ready, set, go!

Marathon day is nearly here! As our runner’s gear up for Sunday, let’s take a quick look back at part two of their blogs and how their training has been coming along.

Don't forget, if you'd like to donate to our runners for Breast Cancer Now, you can do so here - or you can click on their names to donate to their individual pages.

Rona, Store Manager, London Colney
“A huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far from across M&S. Although coming late into the training, I finished the Barcelona half marathon (in a slow 2hr8) and I'm up to 16 miles in my last long run. My inspiration this week comes from a colleague in Glasgow Argyle Street, Jeanette, who has survived 7 bouts of breast cancer. She recently featured in the Glasgow Evening Times talking about her faith and determination - this week is for Jeanette.”

Sarah, Head of Region, South
“I started running to fit in exercise around my children and joined my local running club 2.5 years ago, Farnham Runners, who are a great source of motivation, expertise and inspiration. I have enjoyed completing several half marathons, particularly the Royal Parks half marathon with M&S, raising money for Macmillan. One of my biggest achievements to date was a half iron man in July 2016 with my husband; 1.9km swim, 56-mile bike and a half marathon – it was so tough and I was thrilled to have finished! BCN is an awesome charity which helped support a dear friend of mine, and continues to be amazing to everyone it touches, so I feel privileged to raise money for a great cause and tick off a lifetime ambition simultaneously. Looking forward to mile 26 already – think I'm going to be quite emotional!”

Allan, Section Manager, Durham Arnison Centre
“I had some really good weeks of training and have managed to shake off illness really fast to keep going. WARNING - DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME FOLKS! I did complete 20 miles without any real preparation as I was eager to get out, after 13 miles done my sugar cravings kicked in and I did not have anything to help, just plain old water. I took to asking folk for sweets and was overjoyed after 17 miles when a great guy saved me with a piece of Kendal mint cake.

I did complete the run but learnt a lot of lessons about myself on it.

But since I have had some great runs and I'm starting to actually enjoy running. Another long run this week, can't wait for the big day now.”

Justine, Operational Development Project Manager
“Fundraising – check; trainers more expensive than wedding/bridesmaids' shoes – check; over the 10-mile mark – check; first try of gels (disgusting) – check; super athletic and svelte physique (completely lying) – check.

Things I've learnt since we last spoke: firstly, I can actually run without breaks. Secondly, I feel like I'm on a strange tightrope between more energy than I've ever had and complete exhaustion. Finally, the occasional pudding won't kill me but that huge fish & chips the night before a long run was a big mistake.

Stephen, FOM White City
“Winter training is never easy; dark mornings/nights and weather conditions are often unpleasant. This year has been no different. Tackling two marathons in quick succession (Manchester 2 April and London 23 April) means the training has really cranked up over the last few weeks. As well as the usual short distance midweek running, the long, steady weekend run has been my main focus. I’m now clocking up over 70 miles per week, including the long weekend run of between 17 and 20 miles. 

As I write this, I'm recovering from a 20-mile run. Sponsorship is stepping up a gear. My work colleagues have been great. They’re helping me raise money for BCN. Happy running!”

Richard, Section Co, Kidderminster 
“My marathon training is going well; I've run 90 miles since I found out I had a place. My runs range from at least six miles up to my longest to date at 15 miles. I've had to invest in some new running gear, which was long overdue. All in all, training is going well.”

Nicola, International Environment Planning Manager
“I am well and truly into my training now and it is an integral part of my life – it has to be to get the miles in! I did a half marathon two weekends ago and it is now about really going for the longer weekend runs to up my distance. I am enjoying the training but it is a challenge!”

We’re so proud of all of our runners and all they’ve accomplished so far. Check back here for another update from after the big day!

Inside M&S
20 April, 2017

M&S and The London Marathon: Who's Running?

Here at M&S, we couldn't be more proud of our employees who are about to run the London Marathon. Even more extraordinarily, they've raised over £40,000 for our charity partner Breast Cancer Now, beating their original goal of £28,000. You can find the donation page here.

For a bit of inspiration, we've asked them to blog about their journey. Whether you're thinking about a marathon or just looking for some encouragement, here is part one of their amazing training blogs so far:

Stephen, FOM at White City
"I’ve been training since October last year and I'm aiming for a special double. On 2 April, I took part in the Manchester Marathon; then, on 23rd April, I’ll be running the London Marathon. Each week, my training has consisted of three road runs, two spinning classes and some light weight (very light!!) gym work. I also joined a running club to help keep me motivated, so I try, whenever possible, to train with fellow runners during the evenings. The next six weeks are the crucial training weeks. This is where the duration of the long, steady weekend run goes up considerably, while the shorter midweek runs are run at ‘race pace’."

Nicola, ​International Environment Planning Manager
"My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. Fortunately, she made a full recovery. But supporting breast cancer charities is still a cause that’s close to my heart; even more so as I have a higher risk of getting it than other women my age. This is a real incentive for me to keep fit to help prevent it as much as I can.

“I started running four years ago. Obviously, when I have a race to aim towards, I run even more. I’ve never done a marathon; this will make it a real challenge to me. But I'm looking forward to training for it. This is something I’ve always wanted to do since watching the runners start numerous London Marathons over the years at Greenwich Park. It’s near my childhood home and I couldn't think of a better charity to do it for. Previously, I’ve competed in the Windsor, Hackney and Hampton half marathons. Now I’m about to add the full monty to my list."

Justine, ​Operational Development Project Manager
“At the beginning of February all the training plans I've read say I'm in for the 'ramp up' month. This means piling on the miles: a big run on the weekend, sprints in the week. It’s all becoming a bit real. I've started to notice that my ‘hint of calf’ legs are becoming actual runner's legs! Whilst this is exciting I'm also in mild discomfort, a lot, in many different places.

“I went on a training day with the charity over the weekend to learn about my gait, cheering stations, gel packs, carb shredding and loading, vaseline experiences, highs and lows, race pace, toilets and more. Stick to the plan is key I'm told, and mine (complete novice level) is really starting to feel tough.
Having never been a runner, each weekend is a personal best for me, right up to the marathon itself, and whilst there are highs and lows I always remember what I'm running for and that keeps me going."

Allan, Section Manager
"I’ve worked with many great people over my career, some of my colleagues have had to face up to battles with cancer. Without exception, they all fought their battles with dignity and determination. Sadly, some lost that battle. In the past I have helped raise funds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Action Cancer through the Cycle24 event. I feel very privileged and honoured to take part in the London Marathon for Breast Cancer Now, a great charity that supports individuals and families through the hardest and darkest moments of their lives.

Training has been going well; I did my first 10-mile run last week. And I've stuck to my training very well up to now with minimal problems – a little calf strain and a couple of blisters. The main thing I love about training is my new wireless headphones; there’s less to distract me from my runs. My go-to tracks are Thunderstruck by ACDC and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I go. The main things I hate about training are hills, hills and hills."

Inside M&S
12 April, 2017

Laid Back Lamb, an M&S favourite

At M&S, one of our core values is being in touch with the needs of our customers and our employees, as well as with modern trends. All our products are created with the aim to inspire and delight. This is especially true around holiday seasons like Christmas and Easter when we try and bring a bit of M&S magic to everything we do.

So, when it came to our attention that some customers had questions about our newest Easter treat, Laid Back Lamb, an edible chocolate egg decorated like an adorable sheep, we did our best to listen and respond.

The lamb’s story starts with Katy, Food Product Developer at M&S, who created the chocolate treat after visiting Barcelona in search of Easter inspiration.

“Easter and Christmas are always an exciting time in Food. It’s important to know what else is out there and to keep a pulse on what our competitors are doing; making sure we are ahead of the game and always offering the best to our customers,” says Katy.

“I became inspired to create Laid Back Lamb after a trip to Barcelona. Funny cartoon animals are a big theme around Easter in many countries. So, for Easter 2017 we wanted to create something that could instantly make people of all ages smile.”

At M&S, we work together to deliver the most innovative products out there and to support creative vision in line with our shared values. Each concept is carefully considered and developed based on research and analysis, with a constant focus on quality and entertainment. Chocolate gifting for Easter is a huge responsibility that’s why everyone at M&S is devoted to making it as special as possible.

All in all, the lamb’s antics have indeed sparked a smile on people’s faces and he’s been the source of much amusement. That’s why he’s not only delicious but so laid back as well. 

Inside M&S
10 April, 2017

How our Food Product Developer, Katy helps shape Easter at M&S

How do you go from joining the business as a 21-year-old graduate in Clothing to taking on a Food Product Developer role four years later? Ask Katy. Since joining the company, Katy has never worked anywhere else besides M&S. The reason, she says, is not just the brilliant culture at M&S but also the satisfaction of watching customers buy the products she’s created.

“Seeing how people’s faces light up when they first see something I’ve made and knowing that it’s bringing a bit of joy to their lives is truly inspiring,” says Katy. “A lot of things have kept me at M&S over the years. Innovation is the lifeblood of our business and it’s so exciting being at the forefront of the food industry. No one is doing the kind of things we are.”

Part of what Katy’s famous for at M&S is her work around Easter. She was responsible for the creation of Laid Back Lamb, a chocolate egg shaped like a lamb, designed to “make any customer smile”. It has been a smashing success but it’s only one of the many amazing products Katy has created and is yet to create.

“Easter is an exciting time at Food. I always go out and see what our competitors are doing – it’s important to understand what else is out there. I also think about what we’re going to do for next Easter and so I travel to Barcelona and Paris for inspiration. In fact, I got inspired to create Laid Back Lamb from a trip in Barcelona.

I always look forward to coming up with new ideas and flavours around the holiday seasons. At M&S, we’re all about style, entertainment and inspiration. We really want to be in touch with people, that’s why part of my job is also analysing our performance and building on the things we could be doing better.”

From research and development through to delivery and reflection, the role of the Food Product Developer at M&S is not unlike that of a Renaissance inventor it seems. It’s a fast-paced and thrilling job that requires a passionate individual.

“You have to have vision and be creative,” Katy explains. “You have to be able to make decisions and be able to give clear direction and feedback. The biggest challenge is anticipating the trends – we work so far out from the season and so much can change but you have to be confident and just go for it. If you have vision, the business will support and reward you.”

Has Katy inspired you? Take a look at our Product Developer opportunities here.

Inside M&S
10 April, 2017

Hot competition, but the winner is...

When you order a coffee from an M&S Café, you expect the taste to be perfection in a cup. But do you also consider its appearance, the depth of crema, the coffee art that’s in front of you?

Judges in the M&S Barista of the Year 2017 competition did. They used all these criteria, and more, to decide an overall competition winner from four finalists.

The competition is an eagerly awaited event in the M&S calendar and open to anyone working in an M&S Café. There’s fierce but friendly rivalry, and those taking part are really put through their paces. This year, there were 259 brave contestants from across the land scaled down to 13 semi-finalists, each of whom had to prepare four consistent espressos, cappuccinos and lattes. If there’s one message to be taken away from the competition, it’s that practice makes perfect!

These 13 talented baristas were then judged over a steaming 2-day competition and further whittled down into four finalists. The final was held at the Matthew Algie training facility in the London Business Design Centre. Each barista was given 30 minutes to set up their machine and the same time to make 16 coffees – at this stage, creating their own beautiful signature creation.

One of the finalists was Dean from our Metro store, who reached the same stage in 2016. While being pipped at the post again, he was gracious enough to thank us for the amazing opportunity. David from our Chichester store was another second-time finalist. Last year, nerves got the better of him – but not this year, even though it just wasn’t quite enough. And the third runner-up was another David, from our White City store, who wowed the judges with his latte art patterns.

But the M&S Barista of the Year 2017 is… drumroll, please… Sean from our Fforestfach store. A newcomer to the competition, he showed amazing passion for coffee, and his confidence and calmness in such an intense environment were admired by all.

Sean’s prize is a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the World of Coffee event, this year in Budapest. As winner, he also gets the opportunity to gain the SCAE Intermediate Certificate – and possibly beyond that, the Expert Certificate.

Well done, Sean. Hard luck to the other finalists and thanks to all the other baristas for taking part.

Have we got you inspired? Take a look at our Cafe opportunities here

Inside M&S
4 April, 2017

One of M&S' biggest stores to date set for Rushden Lakes

Something amazing is coming to the new Rushden Lakes retail park – one of the biggest full-line M&S stores to date, complete with all departments from Food, Bakery and Café to Home, Fashion and Lingerie. What this means is that M&S will be hiring for a number of full and part-time roles throughout these areas of the business.

Rushden Lakes is a brand-new retail park located just off the A45 about 15 miles east of Northampton and 13 miles north of Bedford. The site features restaurants, a multiplex, a leisure centre, a boathouse and a huge 1900 space car park. In addition to these, Rushden Lakes is also a jigsaw of big name brands.

That’s why M&S is proud to announce the opening of such a major store at the site. Even among so many prestigious retailers M&S stands out and will make a big impact on people’s lives.

“This has been the most exciting opportunity in my career to date. Rushden is a beautiful historic town with strong roots in the textile industry. The much anticipated Rushden Lakes development gives us a fantastic opportunity to play our part for the community.” says Emily, Store Manager.

“We’ll be bringing in excess of 100 jobs, excellent customer service and the benefits of our ‘Plan A’ commitments to a conceptual retail and leisure destination. I look forward to welcoming our customers and hearing their reactions to the new store this summer.”

To be notified about the new opportunities coming to Rushden Lakes M&S, regsiter your interest here.

Inside M&S
4 April, 2017

A new addition to the charming town of Eastleigh

Some people may find it surprising to learn that the town of Eastleigh has become a very sought after location for families and young professionals over the last five years. Boasting a wide range of both traditional Victorian and modern housing, Eastleigh is not only a charming place to live – its location also makes it ideal for commuting.

“Eastleigh is continuing to establish itself as a great place to live. Continuous investment has led to some fantastic improvements to the town centre and surrounding area. Development of the Swan Shopping Centre has transformed the town into a hub for dining and entertainment,” says Dylan, Eastleigh Store Manager, M&S. “The only thing that was missing was an M&S Food Hall.”

But that’s about to change because we’re bringing a brand new 9000 sq ft Food Hall to Eastleigh, complete with a bakery and 50-seat café. M&S will be a great addition to the town, adding a new shopping opportunity for customers. And not just that. The new Food Hall will create job opportunities for passionate people who have that special M&S spark we’re looking for.

Dylan says he can’t wait to bring bright new faces to the store. “We have openings for Section Coordinators, as well as plenty of openings for Food and Café Advisors. I think people will find working here to be both inspiring and convenient. The store is a three-minute walk from the main rail station with links to Southampton, Winchester and Portsmouth and it has very good links to both the M27 & M3 motorways.

“I have lived in Eastleigh for over 17 years now and have seen it grow over the years. Having worked locally I really feel that M&S will be a fantastic addition to this ever improving Market Town and will offer the people of Eastleigh and the surrounding areas a real opportunity to be part of something special.”   

To be notified about the new opportunities coming to Eastleigh M&S, register your interest here.

Inside M&S
10 March, 2017

Inside our Castle Donington Distribution Centre

At peak, our Castle Donington Distribution Centre will process two million single orders every week– so the site plays an essential role in making sure our M&S customers get what they want, when they want it.

With the festive season fast approaching, there’s lots of temporary opportunities to join the team at Castle Donington, to help us meet the demand for presents and things to make the holiday season special.

We’re hiring to these temporary positions via our agency partner - Staffline. There’s a wide range of different roles on offer. So take a look at the options and apply today!

Inside M&S
9 March, 2017

Supporting apprentices every step of the way

You don’t have to be a school leaver to take an apprenticeship. At M&S, we offer Level 2 Retail Apprenticeships to our Customer Assistants of any age who work 30 hours a week or more in selected stores. Claire jumped at the chance to take an Apprenticeship, seeing it as an opportunity to follow a structured career path and add a new chapter to an already inspirational story.

Claire hadn’t worked for 11 years because of illness before she joined M&S as a temp on the order and collection desk in 2013, but she hasn’t looked back since. She’s worked in Kidswear, Visual Merchandising and Womenswear, loving the pace of store life and always being on the go.

“It was a proud moment when I joined M&S and I was grateful for the chance bearing in mind I lacked up-to-date experience.” Claire says. “It soon became apparent to me M&S is more than a company driven by money. People care about each other and M&S invests in individuals. I’d always loved the brand too; it’s one I grew up with and everyone trusts it. And, as I’ve discovered, if you are passionate about succeeding, want to be your best, want more out of your career, M&S will support and encourage you every step of the way.”

As someone who loves being on the shop floor, engaging with customers, helping them find what they want or just having a chat, Claire had to adjust to spending some time each week at home working on the various modules. But she has no regrets.

“I decided to apply for the Apprenticeship as I was eager to learn more about M&S as a whole,” she says. “It’s been fascinating finding out about the company, our history, how we operate, why we do what we do and where we’re going. I’ve also enjoyed learning new skills and techniques. It’s all been so fresh and interesting.”

Claire believes that the best thing about the Level 2 Retail Apprenticeship is the amount of support she’s been given.

“Managers have always taken an interest in Apprentices and our Learning Advisor gave us his mobile number and email address should we ever need his help and advice. He’s also created a Module Checklist so that we know what our priorities are and what we have to prep for. Apprentices lean on each other for support, and everyone in-store has been amazing in the way they’ve encouraged me, willingly looking over my answers if I’m not 100% sure. My Line Manager has been brilliant too in making sure that the store is covered so we can spend time off the shop floor.”

The Apprenticeship has already borne fruit for Claire as she’s been made a Section Coordinator on a fixed-term basis, with her sights fixed firmly now on a full-time role. And that’s not all.

“Taking the Apprenticeship has sent my self-confidence sky high,” she says. “I know what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at, but I’m a lot more positive now. According to my team, I’ve also become more organised. I understand policies and procedures more than I did – the more detail, the better and I’ve turned into a learning sponge!”

Claire’s experience proves age is no barrier to getting on if you’re prepared to put in the effort. And being away from the shop floor for several hours a week doesn’t take you away from the M&S family. “I love being at M&S. People are close and bond with each other. We have meals out together and celebrate birthdays,” Claire says, before adding “and if I wasn’t at M&S, where would I find the pop socks (ankle highs) I wear every day?”

Inside M&S

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