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1 June, 2017


Cassie is a self-confessed foodie. She worked for two big supermarkets before joining us as a Buyer almost three years ago, attracted by the M&S culture and the prospects for career progression.

As a Buyer, she was responsible for driving category sales and profits. This meant reacting to market changes, keeping the customer at the front of mind in all buying decisions and collaborating with suppliers to deliver the best outcomes. “In my first month I worked on the re-launch of our Indian Ready Meals and 12 months later the new range arrived in store,” she says. “Being involved from day one to final delivery, and seeing M&S move up from fifth to third in this market, makes me very proud.”

Despite finding the Buying environment rewarding and enjoyable, Cassie had always set her sights on progression to Trading Manager. Her development plan was based around stretching her skills to step up to a more senior role and she discussed her ambitions with the Head of Trading. So when a Trading Manager vacancy became available in Desserts & Frozen, it was an obvious fit – even though she knew it would be moving out of her comfort zone.

“I knew Buying like the back of my hand – I’d been doing it long enough, so I knew what needed to be done! Moving into the role of a Trading Manager was a bit of a step into the unknown, but everyone has been incredibly supportive so the transition has been easier than I expected. What’s helped the most is talking to other Trading Managers who have had the same career path as me. One thing I’ve learnt is that everyone does the job differently so you have to approach it in a way that works for you.”

Cassie is responsible for profit and loss within Desserts & Frozen, and to deliver this she works with Buyers, Technologists, Developers, Space & Range Planners, Supply Chain & Logistics, as well as with suppliers. One key thing Cassie has noticed is that, while Buying has a strong commercial focus, the Trading Manager role places more emphasis on people.

“If your team members are happy and feel empowered, it creates a positive environment and you’ll get better, faster results. It’s important that you’re prepared to support your people and help them develop, so you have to be interested in the coaching side of the job. I’m fortunate to work with a really great team – their energy and enthusiasm inspires me daily. In a way, my team sums up M&S. Everyone is approachable and willing to help colleagues. There’s a spirit of collaboration and openness to do things differently. No matter how long you’ve been with M&S, you can make a difference.”

With summer approaching, it’s a pivotal time for Desserts & Frozen. So what would Cassie recommend for a hot day? “Our Frozen Yoghurts range! Coconut is my favourite – I like to convince myself that because it’s frozen yoghurt, not ice-cream, it’s healthy!”

Inside M&S
25 May, 2017

Bringing the med to chelsea

What does the Mediterranean mean to you? Acres of golden sunflowers? Fields of fat peonies bursting open against blue skies? Pink bougainvillea spilling over sun-soaked terracotta coloured walls? Inspired by the colours of the Med, our stand at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is called Spirit of Summer, A Mediterranean Journey – a magical garden overflowing with perfumed stocks, lavender and fragrant herbs.

The creative genius behind the garden is Simon, our flowers expert and Product Developer. This is Simon’s fifth show for M&S and he has five Chelsea medals, including three golds under his belt – already having won a gold this year! He’s out to wow the judges again but he knows how picky they are.

“Obviously, we were very keen to get another gold! But the judges have eyes like hawks; you can’t pass anything by them. Every stem on every plant has to be perfect and we have thousands on the stand,” he says.

Simon gets his exhibit inspiration from M&S's food trends. This year, he wanted to echo the Mediterranean feel of the produce. "For the last four years, we've had a really strong food theme that goes across the whole of M&S," he explains. "When that theme comes out, I try very hard to match my flowers to it so that the customer sees one very strong look."

Once he had decided on the Mediterranean theme, Simon started to look to the country hills of Tuscany and the shores of Cyprus for his blooms and thoroughly researched the areas to ensure he used the perfect flowers, plants and decor. He’s also made sure to use flowers that our shoppers can actually get their hands on in-store, as we are currently selling themed bouquets.

Simon’s hoping that this will be another memorable week. His personal highlight of his four-year Chelsea career was meeting Joanna Lumley when she opened the M&S garden in 2013, although he'll never forget his very first show. "You can never really recreate the feeling of being somewhere for the first time," he says, reminiscing about his first Chelsea garden which won him a silver medal. "But then of course, our first gold the year after was another sensational moment."

Congratulations to Simon and his team for scoring another gold medal this year!

Inside M&S
22 May, 2017

Making every career special

“There’s a willingness at M&S for the management to learn and change for the benefit of all deaf colleagues working here.”

In light of Deaf Awareness Week, we spoke to Spencer, a Team Coordinator in Pick Automation at our Castle Donington Distribution Centre, a BIG Representative and a talented golfer. As the first deaf person to be promoted to a management role at M&S, Spencer has an inspiring story to tell about his career journey with M&S – and he has big ambitions for the future too.

“Before joining M&S, I’d been in employment for over 27 years. During all that time, I never once had access to communication in my first language of British Sign Language (BSL). I’d attended conferences. I’d given presentations myself. I’d even been through a redundancy process, ALL without the use of an interpreter. Eventually, I’d had enough and took voluntary redundancy from my last role.

“To be honest, I expected the same when I applied to M&S to be a Warehouse Operative. So I was shocked, amazed and very pleasantly surprised to discover their approach was mightily different. From my first day of training I was provided with Sign Language Interpreters. Some colleagues and managers were provided with BSL and Deaf awareness training. All of this really helped my confidence in working towards promotions and award nominations. I progressed to become an Ops support colleague, and have now risen to a Team Coordinator role. Becoming the first deaf manager is an achievement of which I’m very proud (on a par with becoming champion and secretary of the England Deaf Golf organisation).

“At present, I’m enjoying the opportunity to liaise closely with colleagues in my role as a Team Coordinator, as well as a BIG Rep – and I am now working with my managers to assist me in my next goal of becoming a Team Manager.

“Ultimately I have to give credit to M&S for providing regular interpreters and for improving the deaf awareness around the warehouse. I’ve just contributed to two days of Deaf Awareness Week in the main communications hub. This was very successful, thanks to some of the SLT who were vocal in the need of the whole warehouse to support us. 

“There’s no doubt that M&S have helped me have a happy working life. If you are a deaf person yourself, you can come here knowing there will be greater opportunities to develop than in most other places you could work. “

Inside M&S
19 May, 2017

From aircraft to automated warehousing

Nick had an open mind after leaving the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Technician. Then he saw that we were recruiting for multi-skilled engineers at our Castle Donington Distribution Centre. At the time, it wasn’t so much the appeal of working in automated warehousing that caught his eye, but the M&S logo. “This was an employer that had stature,” he says, “a company that could offer me support and progression.”

That was in 2012. Since then, he has progressed to Shift Manager before landing his present job – Engineering Training and Planning Manager. Castle Donington Distribution Centre is 900,000 sq. ft. of the latest technology which allows us to hold up to 16 million products and deliver over two million a week to M&S stores and online customers.

Nick has a dual role. First of all he manages the planned maintenance of an extensive range of equipment, but he also oversees the training requirements for both legal compliance and individual development within our Engineering department, which includes bringing on our Apprentices. Perhaps influenced by his Royal Air Force background, Nick personally helps to deliver our Working at Height training!

It’s been a big career shift for Nick. “It’s very different to what I was used to,” he acknowledges. “At M&S, customer delivery is the number one priority,” he says. “You can’t just stop the automation as it impacts the activities of a number of different departments, so maintenance has to be planned in advance and in line with low volumes. And if there’s an issue, we have to work quickly but safely to fix it.”

There are plenty of opportunities for engineers to develop their skills and knowledge at Castle Donington. After all, with nine miles of hanging garments, 39 high-bay cranes, four dynamic buffers and much more at the site, you wouldn’t expect anything else! “There are tailored courses we organise with external providers, which are specific to our types of equipment,” Nick says. “We also offer on-site, in-house compliance training, such as climbing and rescue training, to make sure we are all working safely.”

We take on Engineers from both mechanical and electrical disciplines, but technical expertise is not everything. “For me, the most important traits are drive and determination,” Nick says. “Engineers need to have a mature head on their shoulders and treat tasks with respect. A logical approach to fault-finding and knowledge of automated logistical systems is useful, too. And of course, you need a head for heights!”

If you’ve got all that, you could be following in Nick’s footsteps – whatever your background.

To find out more and apply for an Engineering opportunity at M&S, click here

Inside M&S
17 May, 2017

The art of running a successful department

We asked three of our Section Managers about the art of running a successful retail department, here’s what they say.

What’s the difference between a shopper stopping to pick up a purchase and walking on by to another area of the store? For Suzanne, Menswear & Kidswear Section Manager at our Taunton store, it’s a mix of commercial sensitivity, people management and customer care.

“My ultimate job is to drive sales by making sound commercial decisions and ensuring my team delivers excellent customer service at all times,” she says. “Working in such a fast-moving commercial environment, interacting daily with both staff and customers, every day is different.”

These shifting trading patterns mean it’s vital for our Section Managers to be open to trying something new to engage our customers. Suzanne offers an example: “Following the closure of a local competitor’s store, we increased our Back To School footage and moved it out of Kidswear. That didn’t just drive sales; it enhanced the shopping experience for parents. They were able to get what they needed more easily.”

Amelia, Food Section Manager at our Haslemere store, has a similarly shrewd commercial eye. “I was looking after a Coffee To Go in a new store and desperate to push sales of our amazing smoothies. They weren’t detailed on our menu board at the time, so I got the team to walk around the store and local area, offering free tastings.”

The results were there for all to see in a bump in that day’s Hospitality takings. And while the idea may have been Amelia’s, she is in no doubt where the real credit lies. “What I love about the job is leading a team and developing people to reach their potential. If you get your team engaged, the rest often follows – especially here at M&S, where teamwork is so important.”

The reward of developing people is a recurring theme talking to our Section Managers. “There’s nothing better than developing a team member who goes on to have a retail career at M&S, something they may never have considered previously,” says Amelia.

Likewise, Eron runs Hospitality at our Interchange Bedford store and enjoys nothing more than bringing on his team. “I want my customer assistants to be passionate about their area and keen to step up to a Section Coordinator role, then aim for Section Manager. It’s all about taking pride in the section… and that begins with me.”

So, what is it that makes our Section Managers love their job and be so proud to work for M&S? Suzanne, Amelia and Eron are unanimous in their praise of our working culture. For Eron it’s a “great work-life balance and a company that genuinely appreciates its employees.” And we’re sure he appreciates having every other weekend off too. Suzanne enthuses about “strong, passionate teamwork, striving to do the best for our customers and staff.”

Perhaps Amelia puts it best: “We work hard but we’re not afraid to have a smile while doing so. Oh, and then there are the lemon muffins in the Food Hall!”

For more information on our Section Manager opportunities and to apply, click here.

Inside M&S

Our Latest In Store - Section Manager Jobs

View jobs on jobs.marksandspencer.com
15 May, 2017


If you can combine a creative eye for colour and style with a shrewd business head, you’re cut out for a career in Buying at M&S. That’s the view of Alexis, a Junior Buyer in Womenswear.

Alexis joined us with a degree in Fashion Business Management. After starting as a Graduate Assistant Buyer in Childrenswear, she moved around various areas of Womenswear, from Skirts and Trousers to Denim and finally Tops. Now, she is running a £150m department, driving a team to deliver profitable performance.

“I was attracted to M&S because it’s a huge, high-profile business,” says Alexis. “Everyone has an opinion on M&S and our products, and the press loves to know what we’re doing. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of style, redefining our brands and looking to grow market share - so there’s always something new to tap into.”

On a day-to-day basis, Alexis works alongside our Design team and draws on the inspiration of catwalks to develop a range of tops that will be loved by our customers and hit our margin targets. She also works closely with Sourcing Offices to find the right fabrics and negotiate the best price; Merchandising to build the range and back the right styles; and Press & Marketing to promote our hero pieces.

Alexis gets a real buzz developing and trading the number one line in Womenswear. “I love the process of bringing a drawing to life – working from the initial sketch and collaborating with suppliers to develop wearable and commercial products. I can’t tell you how exciting it is when you see your product selling well in the store, being worn by women in the street and getting great feedback.”

Alexis loves sourcing new products and chasing best sellers through trading, but Buying is not without its challenges. The pace is incredibly fast and deadlines are non-negotiable when it comes to making sure that we get the next big thing before a competitor. As Alexis knows only too well.

“We’d missed an embroidery trend that the Design team felt strongly about. We needed to get the product from India, and develop and book a range within two weeks – the process typically takes nine weeks. So we sent a brief to the Sourcing Office with catwalk tears and fabric swatches and within two days I was flying to India to go round suppliers and pick their latest developments. I built the collection, negotiated the cost prices and brought back 20 pieces in a suitcase, which were signed off by a Director that same week!”

Alexis’s development has been constantly supported by senior figures and mentors in Buying, but you have to be prepared to drive your own success. “It’s a dynamic environment. So, as well as having creativity and a commercial mindset, you need to be open to change. You have to be someone who is keen to step up to the plate and take on new responsibilities and projects. It’s also important that you can work well with your team and collaborate with people in different parts of the business.”

If that sounds like you, explore a career in Buying with M&S.

Inside M&S

Our latest Jobs In Buying

View jobs on jobs.marksandspencer.com
10 May, 2017


Merchandisers at M&S make sure that stock flows through the business and is available where it is most likely to sell. Naturally that keeps our customers happy, but Merchandising is also an analytical, detail-intensive role that helps us achieve our profit targets and stay ahead of our competitors.

As a Merchandiser, Faye’s main responsibility is to develop and implement commercially profitable product strategies. “We’re involved at every stage of the buying cycle,” she explains, “from lessons learned to building and budgeting the range, placing orders and ensuring the product arrives in the store at the right time and in the right quantities. My role also involves analysing and acting on sales performance. Should we increase stock levels? Why isn’t a product selling as well as expected?”

Each day is different. Faye, like every Merchandiser, works closely with Buyers, Technologists and Designers, and strong relationships between the teams are key. A typical day for her could involve meeting suppliers, visiting stores to see our latest ranges or planning a budget - and she loves being involved in the full lifecycle of a product through to its arrival in store.

And that’s not all. “The job is always exciting and fast paced,” she says. “We get to make key decisions that really shape the overall success of the business. It’s our job to seek out opportunities to maximise sales while mitigating risk to deliver sales growth and maximise profit. Believe me, getting a sales reaction on a product you have bought is always exciting!

“It’s all about putting the customer at the heart of every decision made. We work hard to create truly innovative and special products of amazing quality that customers want to buy time and time again. We inspire each other as a team by brainstorming and challenging ideas to develop the most commercial strategy.”

Faye started on our graduate scheme, attracted by the strong M&S heritage and our presence on the high street, as well as our reputation for offering our people lots of responsibility and outstanding training and development. After learning the principles of merchandising (largely through on-the-job experience) Faye progressed within Lingerie to Junior Merchandiser, where she specialised in Bras. Her promotion to Merchandiser in Jewellery is a recent one – a challenge she’s relishing.

So how have we helped Faye to progress?

“When I started, I couldn’t get over how friendly and supportive everyone was. I was also given a first-class training schedule which set me up well for my induction week. Training on the graduate scheme has been really in depth and detailed, and having a great team and manager has been hugely supportive – the help of others has given me the confidence to progress and take on extra responsibilities.”

Faye is very clear about what it takes to succeed in Merchandising. “You’ve got to have an analytical mind and strong commercial instinct. You have to see things through the eyes of the customer. And because you’re liaising with so many different areas of the business, great communication skills are important, too.”

Think you’ve got what it takes to thrive in Merchandising? Check out our current vacancies here.

Inside M&S

Our latest Jobs In Merchandising

View jobs on jobs.marksandspencer.com


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