4 November, 2015

M&S Perfect Products

Whether it be leftover in the back of fridge, or the freshest produce the market has to offer, with two slices of bread either side, grads up and down the country are creating the exact same thing John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich did in 1762. And by building their creation with our Perfect Products sandwich builder, they’re in with the chance of winning a test kitchen experience, and even an insight day here at M&S.

So what’s the deal?

1) Get hungry. Get creative. From http://yourperfectsandwich.co.uk/  you can build your perfect sandwich wherever you are. Get creative, it’s as simple as that. Oh, and once you have created your masterpiece, leave a few details with us about where and what you are studying to enter our Perfect Products competition.

2) Competition you say? From our first on campus visit in Leeds in early October, right across the country ending in London mid-November, every registered sandwich will be figuratively drooled over (or not, depending on the creation) as it vies for a spot in our top 10.

3) So I made the top ten. At this stage, we throw the vote over to you, and ask the general public which of the shortlisted entries gives them most food envy. From this shortlist, we are looking for the top three. The boldest, daring, tastiest creations to be invited to our test kitchens to bring their sandwich to life. Building your sandwich in the same rooms that gave birth to Percy Pig and the iconic runny scotch egg? That’s not all.

4) Pleasing the hard to please. Building, and let’s face it, tasting your sandwich is the easy bit. Seeing it get the full Masterchef treatment by our panel of judges will really put it to the test. In turn, this panel will choose the one creation that best caught their imagination, rewarding the creator with equally perfect prizes.

5) Prize eh? Absolutely. The sandwiches that make the top 10 shortlist will be free to make their ideas a reality with M&S gift vouchers. Make the final three and you will also enjoy the experience day with us in our test kitchen and head office. And for the winner, we’re also offering an Insight Day in your chosen field, an overnight stay and no doubt a Percy Pig or two. All for getting creative with a sandwich?

6) So when does this run from? Sandwiches can be entered into the competition up until 23.59 on the 13 November.

So get thinking. Whether it be a twist on a classic, 100% invention or somewhere in between, show us what you (and your sandwich) are made of.

Inside M&S
2 November, 2015

Making a welcome comeback.

At M&S, our business is built upon strong values. We’ve been a ground breaker in bringing new fashions, delicious food and brilliant ideas to our customers. We’ve built our business on a passion for excellence and our aim is to make M&S the top multi-channel retailer people can rely on in-store and online.

That’s why we are so proud of the opening of the new M&S Foodhall in Friars Walk, Newport.

Store Manager, Sian Young, and her staff are now welcoming customers into a brand new 5,000 square feet store with an in-store bakery, offering some irresistible treats. Some of the great features of the new store location is the 350 space car park built under the new Friars Walk development. And for those customers who don’t drive, the close proximity to the bus and train stations makes access to the store very convenient.

When asked about the location of the new store Sian said:
“M&S closed the city centre store in January 2013, opening a new retail park store three miles outside the city centre the same month. The long awaited Friars Walk is a major new shopping and leisure scheme that will revitalise Newport city centre. M&S has spotted the opportunity for a Foodhall to complement the retail park store outside the city centre.

“The new store will offer some exciting new opportunities for enthusiastic people within store operations, the in-store bakery and on the salesfloor. In addition, flexible shift options will mean that employees have their pick of early morning, core day, evening, and weekend shifts depending on their lifestyle needs. With so many businesses in the area, it is expected that lunch times will be quite busy but we’re well up for the challenge.

“The Friars Walk development is a long-awaited, exciting development for Newport city centre and I am very much looking forward to being part of it.”

Discover our new store and experience first-hand why M&S is one of Britain’s best loved retailers. Don’t forget to explore the many amazing job opportunities available on our website. We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of our brand new store!

Inside M&S
22 October, 2015

Taking things in your stride

After studying Geography at Durham University, Megan didn’t want to pursue the professional services career routes that were opening up for her. She wanted to do something commercial; something she could relate to. That’s why she chose M&S.

“Basically, at uni, I was being offered three buckets of jobs: accountant; lawyer; or management consultant. I didn’t want to do any of these. If I’m honest, I just stumbled across the M&S Digital Programme and it happened to tick all of my boxes, particularly as it focuses on e-Commerce. Everyone knows M&S. It’s a massive name; it’s a bit like the unofficial member of everyone’s family. What the programme offered was something that was super commercial, challenging and engaging all rolled into one.

“The M&S Digital Programme is still a fairly new thing for M&S. But given digital is so core to our business strategy, it’s a great opportunity to get in there and influence things. I spent my first couple of months in the dotcom logistics team – at Christmas. As you can imagine, this is peak period for us, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire but I learned so much in a very short space of time. Managing all of our international carriers was especially insightful.

“Next up was a stint in the mobile team. Here, I was focused on app development and our mobile site as part of the Womenswear trading team. Essentially, this meant I was the ‘shopkeeper’ for this part of the site, so I was responsible for everything from monitoring sales to making sure products were available. Working closely with buying and merchandising colleagues was the key to this and I also had a lot of contact with on-site production teams.

“My last attachment involved working with the team building our new platform. We were moving away from an Amazon platform to build our own specific M&S platform. This was a massive project with hundreds of millions of pounds spent in development. I spent three months working with a big offshore development team, liaising with onshore counterparts. It was incredibly varied and a huge learning curve.

“I think the biggest take-away from doing the rotational programme was it’s all about taking things in your stride. If you want to pick a programme where you want a really varied set of experiences, you have to be prepared to just roll with it. You have to make sure you get as much as possible out of every attachment. Obviously you won’t end up working in all of the areas you touch but there is a huge benefit to getting such a comprehensive overview. You see how the parts contribute to the whole – which is great. You get to experience what’s involved in making an online business work. You have to be adaptable, you have to be ready to leave your comfort zone.

“The biggest shock to the system was working in the logistics team. This was a lot to do with the timing. It was my first placement and I’d joined just in time for the busiest time for retailers. That was a double whammy. Right from the off, I got to see up close the scope and scale of the M&S operation. It was the toughest and it was the best. I thought if I can handle 2am conference calls two weekends before Christmas, I can handle pretty much anything.

#graduate #.com 

Inside M&S
19 October, 2015

Designs on retail greatness

We’ve always kept our finger on the pulse of fashion at M&S. Our track record as a high-street trendsetter is unsurpassed in the world of retail. Contemporary, affordable clothing has long been one of the mainstays of our business, dressing generation after generation in style and quality without breaking the bank.

Our fashion back catalogue is like a rollcall of each season’s must-have items; iconic pieces that have been loved and worn, and now inspire today’s designers as they plunder this rich archive to reinvent style and inspire today’s customers. 

Parisian influence

We recognised the value of investing in high-quality design from an early stage. Parisian designers, such as Anny Blatt, were engaged as consultants. We established invaluable partnerships with suppliers and 1936 saw the creation of the first M&S central design department. With these solid keystones in place, we were all set to build collections that would rule the high street for years to come.
Styling, colour, materials and forecasting future trends were, as they are today, our guiding principles. In the 50s, this led our buyers to forge relationships with Paris couture houses. They would return with the very latest designs and use their ingenuity to help create our own ready-to-wear equivalents: catwalk-inspired collections at high-street prices.

Swinging sixties

In the swinging sixties, our Head of Design, Hans Schneider, drew inspiration from the hotspots of London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road. Thanks to him, new design standards were developed and an even greater emphasis was placed on the finer details of our clothing. He also oversaw the team’s expansion from just 15 people to over 100.

The 1980s ushered in a whole new wave of innovations. These included the design department’s evolution into a consultancy service. Using their expertise to liaise with suppliers, they would provide a seasonal design brief that would form the basis for the next season’s collection.

One-off collections

When Autograph launched in 2000, it epitomised the changing relationships between designers and retailers. Edited, one-off collections were produced in collaboration with names such as Betty Jackson, Julien MacDonald and Katherine Hamnett.

Today, the design department is the creative driving force behind M&S brands. The team includes garment designers, knitwear designers, print designers, textile specialists and colourists, working across all ranges including womenswear, menswear, lingerie, and footwear and accessories.

Inside M&S
19 October, 2015

Names that made M&S

Innovation has always been at the core of M&S. Much of this has been driven by the needs of our customers. Our ability to stay in touch with what they want – and deliver a few surprises along the way – is one of the key secrets behind our success. It’s an approach that extends beyond the many and varied products we’ve created down the years. We pride ourselves on ensuring every aspect of every touchpoint with the customers is considered, well executed and worthy of the M&S brand. One name that stands out in this regard is Charlie Wilkinson.

Iconic packaging

A stalwart of the M&S Design Studio from over 30 years, Charlie started out as a layout artist on our staff newsletter, St Michael News. This was well before the advent of modern desktop publishing, so it could take as much as three days just to arrange the typeface and layout before it went off to print. It may have been this that gave Charlie his unfailing attention to detail – detail that inspired much of our iconic packaging between 1954 and 1985.

Our Food Departments first appeared back in 1931. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that they began to be considered as the last word in quality and value. The part packaging played in this cannot be underestimated. To keep pace with increasingly sophisticated and discerning shoppers, Charlie created beautiful watercolour paintings for the labels on everything from toiletries to cakes and wines. He was also responsible for our cutting-edge biscuit packaging in the 50s and continued to work with us right up until the 80s when his designs were printed on tins for our new range of beers.  

Trail blazing

Charlie Wilkinson can justifiably take his place amongst the names that made M&S, blazing a trail for our tradition of creating inviting and appealing packaging that was set to become one of the hallmarks of our business.

Inside M&S
16 October, 2015

An irresistible learning opportunity

After studying Political Economy at the University of Birmingham, and getting his Masters in Marketing and International Management from Henley Business School, George was attracted to M&S by the power of its brand.

“M&S is an iconic, global brand. Who wouldn’t want to work for them? This, plus the fact you cover a lot of ground in a very short space of time, makes for an irresistible learning opportunity. There are so many avenues to explore here. I’m about a year into my 18-month programme. This consists of three-month rotations in different areas – the category brand team, digital marketing, product presentation, design studio; the list goes on. 

“Three months is not an awful lot of time to get to know an area – once you’re finding your feet, you get moved to a different area. It keeps you on your toes and you get to learn a great deal in a very concentrated period of time. When you move to a new team, you have to get to know them and understand the fundamentals and dynamics of how they work – but it’s all learning, so it’s all good. 

“You have to be resilient. You have to be quick to learn. You have to be ready to step outside of your comfort zone. And you have to like change. The breadth of exposure the rotations give you is invaluable; it helps you see the marketing function in the round. It’s about understanding how everything fits and works together. With a brand like M&S, that’s pretty special.

“When you’re in a company that’s the size of M&S, you really have to understand the processes by which things get done. In Marketing, you find yourself dealing with a lot of people in different teams with different objectives. If you want to get stuff done, you need to know the right steps to take and the best people to talk to. It takes a bit of getting used to but the various rotations are a big help in this respect. Not only does it enable you to network across the business; it also teaches the value of stakeholder management and how to influence.

“This experience was put to good use in one of my first big projects, launching the Sun Smart Sun Care range. Overseeing my own marketing campaign with its own budget was an exciting opportunity. It involved working alongside a variety of senior stakeholders and management in a very competitive area. Some brands can afford to pump millions and millions into promoting their products. So I had to think smart about how to engage our customers and position our products in a way that would meet their needs.

“We focused on education and protection. The sun cream market is quite scientific; acronyms like SDF, UVA, UVB etc., abound. So we produced a Point of Sale leaflet that explained these terms. Our core customer for the product is most likely to be female, probably with children, and would be likely to appreciate this kind of information. I also arranged a tie-in with a company that produced UVA-detecting wristbands which we gave away free when two products from the range were purchased. This was something that had never been done before. Our research showed parents were open to these kind of innovations; anything that helped make looking after their kids in the sun easier. 

“All in all, launching a new brand on a comparatively low budget was a great learning experience – the first of many.” 

Inside M&S
15 October, 2015

“Nine roles over seven years. And if this is my last move here, I will be very surprised.”

“When I graduated from Cardiff University in 2004 with a degree in Business I wanted a company that was market leading and adaptable. M&S offered all this, but I wasn’t expected the sheer number of opportunities I’d have access to. 

“Since completing my graduate programme in 2006 I’ve had seven different roles – each one more challenging than the last. And I also had a beautiful baby son eighteen months ago, who’s definitely helped keep my feet on the ground. 

“I started as a GM Commercial Manager in Derby for the close down and relocation of the store – a fantastic opportunity that gave me a taste for store developments! I was then appointed into Fosse Park as Commercial Manager – one of our top stores – which was really enjoyable, especially at Christmas. After Fosse I left the business for a year but soon returned: I always say M&S gets in your blood! After a role in Cheltenham I got my first Store Manager role. I completed a very short role in Cwmbran before starting as Store Manager in Gloucester, responsible for closing down two older sites and opening a new shopping centre site. Overall it was a great experience with a truly fantastic team. 

“After this, I worked as a Relief Store Manager in Cheltenham and my home town Hereford, before leaving to have my son. Returning from maternity leave I went straight into a role as No. 2 in the same Birmingham store I’d worked as a grad, to help me broaden my business skills. And now I’ve been appointed to the new Longbridge team. I’m currently managing our people proposition and recruitment strategy for the new store. Once it’s opened I’ll be managing Womenswear. And if that’s my last role I’ll be very surprised!”

Inside M&S
14 October, 2015

Seeing things through our customers' eyes

Spending a year in the food industry as part of his undergraduate degree helped Michael decide he wanted a commercial focus in his career. For him, choosing M&S was the natural next step.

“I’d known for a long time I wanted to work in the food industry. My degree was in Food Technology with Biological Science, so I had a solid foundation to build on. But I needed to find an employer who could give me the breadth of exposure to make me the complete package. M&S stood out from the crowd for me, inasmuch as their scheme was geared towards helping me acquire the additional skills I needed to progress quickly.

“What the business really excels at is identifying your strengths and weaknesses. It really does give you a broader understanding of the food industry. The focus extends beyond food to take in all of the other disciplines that you need to master in order to become more well-rounded. So if you have a business-related degree, you’ll get to learn about the food side. I wanted to acquire the commercial skills and M&S was the ideal place to do so.

“It’s very much a hands-on, learn-by-doing kind of role. You’re allowed to make mistakes too. The business recognises that this is how you develop and you’ll be given constructive feedback so you get the positive from the negative. Working alongside the rest of the team of food buyers, technologists and product developers is another big plus. You get to see the equation from their side, so you can factor all this into your decision making process – which, incidentally, you’re expected to do from an early stage.

“Obviously, M&S is a massive operation; it’s an iconic retail brand. We are the benchmark for the industry. This means a lot will be expected of you. But, as long as you’re prepared to drive your career and make the most of the available opportunities, you’ll get all the support you need to succeed. Buying has so many touchpoints with the rest of the business. This means you can have a great deal of influence. But with that influence comes responsibility. To live up to these you need to understand the bigger picture. You have to have everything from sound analytical skills and a solid grasp of the commercial world to how we work with supply chain and our external suppliers.

“The real key to getting things right, however, rests on your ability to understand our relationship with our customers. Thankfully, you’ll start out with a few months on the retail frontline. As a Food Buyer, what you do has a massive impact in store. If you step into the customers shoes and see how they see our products; if you really get a handle on what their needs are, you can take this back into your role. This will really help you create the ahead-of-the-curve, innovative products they want and, also, keep our brand fresh and relevant.

“M&S is all about its customers, so we have to be all about the product. We need to understand what customers want. That’s how we make the perfect, tailor-made products they love.”


Find out more about Food Buying and our other graduate opportunities avilable at M&S, and if you haven't already done so, be sure to enter our #PerfectSandwich contest for your chance to WIN a number of prizes, including an Insight Day with us here.

Inside M&S
12 October, 2015

Banbury Gateway could still be your way in to M&S

Later this month, M&S will be opening a brand new store on the newly built Banbury Gateway Retail Park in Oxfordshire.

We have had a store in the centre of Banbury for 30 years, and we’ve worked hard to build up a loyal customer base in a town where there is a real sense of community and local pride. Now we’re ready to write a new chapter in the special relationship we’ve forged with Banbury.

“I’m so excited to open the new Banbury Gateway store,” said Store Manager, Anna; “It adds a fantastic new dimension to the presence M&S already enjoys in the local community.”

Banbury Gateway Retail Park, located just off Junction 11 of the M40 and offering 600 free parking spaces, marks a transformation in the town’s landscape. Our new store measures 80,000 sq. ft. and will be the largest site on the park. This huge space will allow us to tempt customers with the full range of general merchandise products, including our stylish womenswear, menswear, lingerie, beauty, M&S Kids and M&S Baby – not to mention food aisles and a deli counter.

Many people, from all kinds of backgrounds, are already poised to help meet our customers’ needs when we open our doors, but there are still opportunities to be part of this exciting development. We have vacancies across a number of departments, particularly on early morning and late night shifts.

In all cases, we look for people who can deliver the outstanding service on which M&S is founded to a new and growing local community. “The Banbury Gateway Retail Park has been eagerly awaited and we have a real responsibility to live up to residents’ expectations,” said Anna.

If you want to be a part of our team here in Banbury Gateway Retail Park and help deliver that M&S magic to our customers, you can still apply for our roles here.

Inside M&S
28 September, 2015

According to Mo, being welcoming is in our DNA.

Mo started working in M&S on Saturdays to get extra cash to get through university. After cutting his teeth on the menswear section in a Birmingham store he became a Section Coordinator. And after a brief time away from the business, he realised that M&S was where he wanted to be and got a place on our graduate scheme.

“I’ve been a GM Commercial Manager, and a Finance & Operations Manager. I even worked in the Pantheon store on Oxford Street, project managing the store development. In the build up to walking the top shareholders in the business round, we had people flying in from the USA and Dubai to have a look at the new scheme, so we needed to make sure we showcased the best of M&S to them.

“Now I’m taking on my biggest challenge so far – working as a project manager on our new Longbridge store opening. It’ll be one of our flagship stores and there’s a huge amount to do. One day I could be getting the store ready for a legal compliance audit, another day I could be supporting one of our many Plan A initiatives – like helping clean a local beach.

“Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of change. Some things always stay the same though. When I think back to my very first Saturday, the one thing I remember was how welcoming everyone was. I think it’s in the M&S DNA. That first day almost everyone went out of their way to introduce themselves to me. And I still see that happening to new starters today.”

Inside M&S


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