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Meet our Moment Makers: Kate
It’s not just sleigh bells that are ringing in December. Our tills are too – well, metaphorically speaking of course in this digital age. You don’t have to be Sherlock to work out that Christmas is the busiest time of year in M&S stores. And planning for the festive period starts months in advance.
That means deciding on our Christmas themes, which products are going to be a hit, how we’re going to decorate our stores. And then there’s the little matter of making sure we have enough people on our sales floor, in our Food Halls, in our Cafés to ensure that every Christmas shopping experience is the best it can possibly be.
So meet Kate – she’s responsible for our peak seasonal recruitment. Kate’s worked in HR since graduating and has spent the past 12 years loving life in M&S HR Shared Services. Now, as part of the Central Recruitment team, Kate works with some 140 Regional Recruitment Customer Assistants to make sure we have the numbers in place.
Her mission starts early. “Planning for the Christmas season starts before the sun tan lotion is put away,” she says. “I’ve long been touring the UK, meeting our Regional Recruitment Customer Assistants to make sure they’re fully geared up. Our aim is to have all our peak recruitment done and dusted before the end of November so stores can focus wholly on Christmas trading – and I can look forward to a mini Beef Wellington from our Christmas Party range!”
We don’t cut corners at Christmas just because we’re ‘busy’. In one respect, it’s even more important to make every moment special for customers during this period. Christmas shopping can be stressful, so we need to go the extra mile to make sure customers can find and then leave the store with exactly what they want. “It’s not good enough simply telling customers where the tins of shortbread are, we need to take them to the right aisle so they don’t waste time aimlessly wandering around,” Kate agrees.
When you think about how many customers come to M&S to buy their Christmas turkey, not to mention all the other trimmings from food and drink to a jumper for Dad, you’ll realise how busy we’ll be. Any ‘quiet’ periods will usually be spent filling the shelves for the next rush.
Our Christmas colleagues need to cope with that pace without compromising standards. “We look for people who are committed and flexible and can offer the kind of service they like to receive themselves,” Kate says. “Opportunities are spread across the floor so there’s something for so many people, from serving in our Food Halls, Bakeries or Beauty Department to making Cappuccinos in our Cafés. The best advice I can give is to set up a job alert today so you don’t miss out.”
And you would be missing out on quite a lot. “We look to reward our Christmas colleagues straight away. You’ll get a 20% employee discount from day one and our hourly rate is more than competitive,” Kate says.
Not a bad Christmas present.
Find out more about current opportunities here.Inside M&S
We are supporting Stonewall’s new campaign to ‘Come Out For LGBT’
We have come a long way in the fight for LGBT rights in the last 25 years. But new research from LGBT charity Stonewall shows just how far we have to go. The number of lesbian, gay or bi people who have experienced a hate crime has gone up by nearly 80% over the last five years. And two in five trans people have experienced hate crime in the last 12 months. The fight for equality is far from over.
That’s why we are supporting Stonewall’s brilliant new campaign: Come Out For LGBT. We want everyone in Britain to join us and show visible support for LGBT equality in lots of different ways: from sharing positive messages on social media, to knowing how to intervene to stop discrimination, to making your school or workplace more inclusive.
We all have a part to play in creating a world where everyone, everywhere can be themselves. Go to www.stonewall.org.uk/comeoutforLGBT now to sign the pledge and find out more.
Golden Milestone in Belfast
It’s 1967. The original Summer of Love. Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) has just spent four weeks at number one. And on Thursday the 7th of September, our Belfast store opened its doors at Donegal Place in the city centre.
This was a milestone in Marks & Spencer history, as it was the first store to open in Northern Ireland. At the time, the Belfast store was the most publicised M&S opening ever. An estimated 120,000 people visited the store on the first day. People came from all over Northern Ireland, some even made the trip from Dublin and Galway to see the new store. Two weeks later 200 VIP guests gathered at a special reception to mark the opening, including the Governor and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
Now another milestone has been reached, as we celebrate 50 years in Northern Ireland. As Ryan Lemon, M&S head of region Northern Ireland, explains: "For 50 years, M&S has been at the heart of local communities across Northern Ireland, growing from one Belfast store in 1967, to 20 locations across the province. This year, as we celebrate our milestone anniversary, it is important for us to give back to our community, and offer a helping hand to those in need."
To mark the 50th anniversary, we took on the ambitious task of hosting 50 ‘Making Every Moment Special in the Community’ projects across the region – with staff from all 20 stores taking part. The occasion is also being marked with a pop-up exhibition in the Donegal Place store - featuring vintage M&S fashions, fascinating facts and fabulous photos.
Joanne Jones has worked for M&S in Belfast store for 34 years, “There has always been a fantastic buzz in Belfast City Centre, even throughout the Troubles. Belfast people are very friendly and come through many hurdles together, and it has brought the whole community and store team together like a family.”
Manager, Colin McGreevy has also been with M&S for over 30 years, “It has always been my aspiration to be the Store Manager of Belfast, as I am local to the area. I am very proud that my customers have been shopping with us for 50 years with a really unique sense of brand loyalty. Similarly, I am blown away by the loyalty of the staff in store, with many colleagues having over 40 years service.”
It's a proud past – and you could be part of its future. Check out vacancies in Belfast and Northern Ireland here.Inside M&S
My M&S Life: Josie
Meet Josie. She’s Visual Merchandising Section Manager at our Cheshire Oaks store. Turn up at the store when it opens at 9am and you’re guaranteed that everything will be looking the best it can be. That’s because Josie and her team have already been in for a couple of hours.
“I arrive at 7am and the first thing I’ll do is say ‘hello’ to the team. I believe in forging personable relationships and this sets them up for the day,” Josie says. Then it’s a walk round with her Section Coordinator. “During this time, we’ll scrutinise standards and make sure that window displays will grab the attention of the passer-by. I also check on sales figures and footfall as these enable me to identify any areas that need additional visual focus.”
When the doors open at 9am, Josie will take a tour of the store with other managers, before a full management huddle to glean the important commercial information. At 10am, Josie will hold a quick team brief and that changes day to day to keep things fresh. “On Mondays we focus on any top lines, Tuesday on management updates. Wednesday’s brief is all around the customer and team energising. Thursday is a day for sales and buzz sessions, and Friday’s is called ‘tidy Friday’.” Josie believes implicitly in engaging her team by cascading down any key business messages, providing motivation on the shop floor and setting up team competitions during peak times.
By noon, after a quick but well-deserved break, Josie will be on the shop floor with her team where she’ll remain for the next few hours. “I make sure that my whole team is focussed on the customer and driving sales. That includes me as I believe in leading from the front.” During this time, she’ll spot things where improvements can be made which can provide useful feedback for her team.
The afternoon will often continue with projects or events that Josie is heading up. “As a Visual Merchandising manager I am extremely lucky as I am able to get involved in lots of extra projects, internal and external. This is also the time that I would utilise Yammer, the M&S social media page.” At 3pm, all the Section Managers will get together for an hour to discuss store KPIs and upcoming events.
Josie loves her job and she’s been working towards it since joining as a Christmas temp at our Chester store back in 2011. When our Cheshire Oaks store opened, Josie became Section Coordinator for Peak in Lingerie & Beauty. Then she applied to join our Trainee Section Manager Scheme and took on a Late Night Section Manager role looking after Womenswear, Beauty, Lingerie and Backstage, before moving into her current job. “M&S has a great career path including the newly launched apprenticeship scheme. The benefits and pay at M&S are remarkable, including the share save scheme, staff choices and the staff discount. And there’s a real family feel to the business.”
Josie strives to make every moment special for our customers – and has a great example to prove it: “I spotted a post on social media which said a customer had lost a comforter for her baby. The comforter had sold out everywhere online and in store; I managed to track the item down via Yammer from a Store Manager and hand-deliver it to the customer’s house.”
Above and beyond the call…
Find out more about Visual Merchandising opportunities available here.Inside M&S
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Meet our Moment Makers: Rosie
Starting a new job at any time of the year can set the nerves jangling. So think of Rosie, whose M&S career as a Customer Assistant began at the height of the New Year sales.
It was deep-end stuff, so how did she feel? “I was a bit terrified at first, but my team was so nice and supportive I soon felt at ease. Then I began to enjoy the buzz of the place, dealing with customers at such a happy time of year, getting used to the products. I’ve realised that the Christmas and New Year period at M&S is really a little magical for both customers and colleagues.”
Rosie had worked in retail before serious illness put her career on hold. It was her sister – recently retired from her role at M&S – who recommended she applied to us when the time was right. Despite her baptism of fire, Rosie’s never looked back – even meeting Joanna Lumley at a Plan A event. After years in Menswear, she now works in Womenswear and is a passionate advocator for working at M&S, helping out with inductions for new starters.
So where does this passion come from? “It’s the people,” she says immediately. “My colleagues are so caring, especially when things get tough and I’ve personally gone through some really testing times. M&S is like an extended family and everyone works so hard. Customers only see the smiles on the shop floor but so much goes on behind the scenes. Everyone has a part to play – we’re like a theatre company that believes that the show must always go on!”
Rosie also enthuses about the benefits: “I particularly love the 20% staff discount. I buy most of my food at M&S and lots of clothes although it’s important not to get carried away… I sometimes have to shut my eyes when new things come in! And it’s good that everyone gets the discount, including Christmas temps from their very first day.”
Rosie has seen a lot of changes in retail over the years, but accepts that that’s the nature of the business. One thing hasn’t changed at M&S, though – the overriding focus on the customer and Rosie has her own memories of creating a special moment for one particular customer: “We had a lady from overseas who came into the store and spoke very little English. Don’t know how, but we just about managed to understand each other and we did a bit of personal shop. She was delighted with the outfits we found… and I got a cuddle for it!”
And another Christmas is just around the corner. “It’s very festive in-store, as you can imagine,” Rosie says. “It’s hard work, but fun too – you can have a good time. I think our best temps are flexible, positive, friendly and team-spirited.”
If that sounds like you, we could soon be welcoming you to our Christmas and New Year team. Find out more about available opportunities here.Inside M&S