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.

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