19 October, 2017


It’s 1986. Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson. The M25 opens. Plans are announced to construct the Channel Tunnel. And Nicky becomes a Saturday Girl at M&S in Harlow. She’s still with us 31 years later.

We’ve worked with Nicky over the years to make sure her M&S career can dovetail with her family life. She’s stepped up, stepped down, gone on maternity leave and come back. Nicky’s been a Food Commercial Manager, Late Night Commercial Manager and Store Manager. She’s covered Foods, Womenswear, Menswear and Childrenswear. For the last few years, Nicky has worked in hospitality. She’s now Café Manager in Cheshunt – a job she absolutely adores – and Food Safety Expert Level 3.

And there’s no chance of Nicky slowing down. She’s in at 8am every day. Not to enjoy the coffee but to make sure everything is in hand for the day ahead. “After checking overnight emails for anything urgent, I’ll go into the café and offer support to team members,” she says. “That could mean filling the fridges, looking after deliveries, making sure due diligence has been carried out, checking dates or for spillages. I’ll do my PACE checklist –Presentation, Availability, Commerciality and Experience – and work with my Section Coordinator to make sure the staff rota is in place for the day.”

Nicky will have a welcoming word with her team members when they arrive and fill in where necessary, even clearing tables, so the early-bird customers get the service they deserve. “That’s what it’s about. Managing at M&S is all about being hands-on, setting the example.”

After that, Nicky will go into management meetings to discuss the previous day’s takings or any Food Safety and Environmental issues, and then update the communication board with anything her team needs to know. From 11am to 3pm, the store and Nicky’s café will go into ‘power hours mode’.

“Power hours are when all the managers are on the sales floor, supporting the store so staff and customers are aware that they are there to help them,” Nicky says. ”We have a lot of regular customers and it is always nice to catch up as we may sometimes be the only people they see or even speak to all day. Standards and service are the two most important thing we must get right. Without these, how can we achieve greatness?”

Afternoons are usually spent with her team. It’s time for performance reviews or discussing training needs. Nicky wants her team to be the best in the store and engagement is crucial to achieving this. “I engage them in team briefs and update them when we have new lines in. I try to get to know them on a personal level as well so they can feel they can come and talk to me at any time about any issue. And I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Nicky also has to look beyond the present day. M&S Cafés are busier at certain times of the year such as Father’s Day, Easter and of course Christmas when seasonal shoppers want a break. So Nicky has to plan ahead.

As 5pm approaches, Nicky is preparing to hand over to the Late Night Manager and head home to her family. She shares her children’s interests, watching her son play cricket and her daughter dancing – the latter hardly surprising. Apart from spending 31 years at M&S, Nicky’s claim to fame is to have once reached the final auditions at The Royal School of Ballet. Her daughter is obviously following in her mother’s pirouettes.

Find out more about Section Manager opportunities here.

Inside M&S