1 August, 2019

How one colleague has helped make M&S more inclusive

Kelly is part of the M&S team in Prestatyn, North Wales. Last year, she heard about ‘Unique’. This is a voluntary group that supports transgender people in North Wales and West Cheshire, from those who have changed their gender presentation to individuals who have had gender affirming surgery. Kelly learned that Unique’s aim is to help transgender people accept themselves and find acceptance from others – and was driven to be an ally to the group.

Along with an M&S bra fitter, Kelly went to one of Unique’s monthly meetings, not really knowing how their presence would be received. Here’s how it went:

“We discreetly went around the group explaining that we were there to help, that M&S is a friendly place which welcomes customers whoever they are, and that they shouldn’t be frightened to come into our stores. I guessed correctly that there was a stigma coming into a store like M&S, so I suppose it was a mission of reassurance.”

To Kelly’s delight, the evening was a huge success, so she arranged another visit. “This time, some of the group modelled for me. They loved it and I was made to feel so welcome. After the meeting, many came for a bra fitting and one of the group specially brought their partner along for a new bra. I had to reserve quite a lot of our products – not that I went there with the intention of boosting M&S sales!”

That wasn’t the end of it. Kelly has built firm friendships with members of the group, two in particular. “One worked in our Prestatyn store over Christmas, and when I was told “to be an M&S girl is a dream come true”, it really brought a lump to my throat,” Kelly says.

And the other? “One of the group makes a 100-mile round trip to buy tights here. We always make a point of meeting up for a chat and the least I can do is make sure the coffees are on me!”

Kelly’s experience of reaching out to the transgender community chimes with the belief we hold that the majority should step into the shoes of the minority to truly understand inclusion. Diversity and inclusion, whether it’s welcoming new customers or colleagues, are top of our agenda. We have a number of D&I networks and support a whole host of initiatives as a company. But the actions of our individual colleagues, and how they set the standard for others, really count. Thank you, Kelly.

Inside M&S