12 June, 2018

A WARM RECEPTION

Kath is Section Manager at the New Change Simply Foods store – bisexual and non-binary, they attended their first Pride through M&S. “Although I’ve been in and around the periphery of a few Prides, last year was my first full Pride experience.”

But the decision came with some deliberation, “I was relatively new to M&S, so I signed up to the M&S London Pride via Yammer. I was initially quite hesitant, as I suffer from incredible social anxiety and a huge fear of crowds. However, I couldn’t have wished for a better day. Everyone was so welcoming and inclusive, and it was such an amazing thing to be part of the march, such an incredible experience.”

And the pleasant surprises didn’t stop there: “Ultimately, that day led onto me being involved with the M&S LGBT+ network, working towards planning further Pride events and other LGBT+ initiatives within M&S.”

But for Kath, Pride also brings with it a sense of responsibility. “Although some might say Pride in later years has become more celebratory than a protest for LGBT+ rights, Pride must always have activism at its heart and, as such, serve as a reminder of what has been achieved and a motivation to push forward. As we celebrate our diversity and equality, we must think of those who cannot celebrate, and keep those in mind who are still persecuted for who they are or who they love.”

As attitudes towards the LGBT+ community evolve, there’s still a way to go. “In my lifetime, I’ve experienced the UK transform in terms of its acceptance of the LGBT+ community; however, we’re not there yet. In the last few years I have seen a growing understanding and acceptance towards non-binary identities, but like bisexuality, often some discrimination and misunderstanding comes within the LGBT+ community itself.”

Kath’s career journey has seen a shift towards LGBT+-friendly employers. “At a store level, my colleagues treat me no differently than their non-LGBT+ colleagues and that’s how it should be. M&S does an impressive number of things for its LGBT+ employees, including support via the LGBT+ network, Yammer Group, Facebook group, events, Pride presence and so on.”

“I’m proud to be part of the M&S LGBT+ network and will be extremely proud to be in this this year’s parade, knowing how far I have come and how far we have come as a business in a year. I will fly our flag with so much ‘pride’.”

Inside M&S
11 June, 2018

A friend to the cause

Although James, Store Manager in our Banbury Gateway store, doesn’t identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, he’s a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community. “I think it’s fantastic that M&S is asking people to be themselves at work and that this is becoming ingrained in everything we do. I used to work with one of the group of staff that founded the Network so have been there since the beginning, and the work they are doing internally continues to accelerate.”

“One of the things I most like about M&S is that I have always felt comfortable being myself. In fact, some of the most inspirational leaders I have worked with have actively encouraged me to be ‘more... me.’”

And attitudes are changing toward the LGBTQ+ community, “I think if you used the phrase LGBT+ even five years ago to straight, white males like me you might have just got a shrug of the shoulders as to what it even meant. I think this shows the way the world has changed and how wherever anyone finds themselves on the LGBT+ spectrum they are increasingly recognised for who they are. However, I still feel there is a long way to go.”

But there is still much that can be done to improve society’s perception of the LGBTQ+ community, “personally I believe that there is a dangerous lack of training and empathy around how to support transgender customers in the retail sector. People without knowledge or first-hand experience (for example having friends who identify as Trans) are not confident in how to sensitively and properly help customers.”

M&S is proud to support allies of the LGBTQ+ community as well as the community itself, “I believe the steps that M&S has taken to embrace the LGBT community in the last few years has been extremely positive. I am proud to work in a business where difference is embraced, and diversity celebrated. However, I think there is still a long way to go and not everyone shares these values and beliefs. We need to continue to work hard to make sure that every single person in M&S feels comfortable being themselves and that there is no taboo stopping them reaching their potential within our organisation.”

Inside M&S
7 June, 2018

M&S has got talent

All kinds of people with all kinds of talent. That’s what makes the M&S brand happen. Few of our people, however, have their talent recognised by the whole country. But that’s precisely what Nichola Roberts achieved last week and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

Nichola is an advisor from our Brotherhood Peterborough store. When she’s not delivering first-class customer service she’s wowing audiences nationwide as a member of 1940s wartime-style singing act, the D-Day Darlings. Together, they achieved the amazing feat of making it all the way to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent.

The D-Day Darlings perform classic WWII songs, such as Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again and Land of Hope and Glory. They’ve made appearances all over the country, from London’s Imperial War museum and Royal Hospital Chelsea to The Black Country Museum, to name just a few. So far, they have raised over £40,000 for The Royal British Legion charity which supports the armed forces.

Before the show, Nichola commented, "we are over the moon we've got into the finals of Britain's Got Talent... it's incredible and I couldn't have done it without the support of my colleagues and managers at the Brotherhood Peterborough Store who've supported me every step of the way."

When the show aired last Sunday, the D-Darlings did brilliantly, coming second in their category with 21.3% of the public vote. We want to congratulate both Nichola and the D-Day Darlings on their amazing achievement. Who knows, Nichola might be bringing a rendition to the Brotherhood Peterborough Store soon. Watch this space!

Inside M&S
6 June, 2018

Fashion is in our genes

High-quality, affordable fashion has long been a cornerstone of our brand at M&S. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that we’re a keen supporter of fresh, upcoming design talent. This is our third year as principal sponsor of Graduate Fashion Week; it’s a key event in the UK’s fashion calendar and as a stalwart of Britain’s high street, we’re proud to play our part in it. As a major employer of designers, we’ve been incredibly excited to see that the vibrancy and originality that’s the hallmark of British fashion, is alive and well.

To celebrate the accomplishments of the next generation of fashion talent, we hosted a series of events with some prominent figures from the industry. Fashion icon Twiggy talked to former Daily Telegraph fashion director and Hello Fashion Monthly’s editor-at-large, Hilary Alexander, about her career in fashion. As the face of the Swinging Sixties, Twiggy’s elfin looks were immortalised by Andy Warhol and she’s also starred in our own ad campaigns, as well as designing her own collections for us.

Our current design lead, Danielle Vanier, spoke to Tomas Vlachioties, about her story and how she got involved with the creation of our new Curve collection. Rounding off this engaging and informative timetable of talks was Claire Tagg. Last year’s runner up for the Womenswear award, Claire spoke to Fiona Clark about what she’s been up to over the last 12 months.

Let’s hope some of this year’s hopefuls follow in their footsteps and carve out equally successful careers. We wish them every success for the future.

Inside M&S
1 June, 2018

Career growth

As a novice gardener at home and a Personal Assistant to three heads of Marketing at M&S, Zoe enjoys a challenge.

But getting her garden started was no easy feat, Zoe’s space has some unexpected features, “I have a tiny courtyard garden. It’s full to bursting with plants, plus a brightly coloured tool shed, Brick BBQ and raised flower bed. There is a lot to look at and whenever people come around they always manage to find something new they hadn’t noticed before. It’s a fab space to entertain in!”

Zoe was by no means an experienced gardener when she began, either, “this is my first garden and I’ve transformed it over the last 2 years from an empty drab space to a vibrant, colourful and fun entertainment area.”

Naturally, Zoe regularly watches Gardeners’ World and was surprised to discover a competition that suited her perfectly, “the “Every Space Counts” competition was specifically for small gardens and mine clearly qualifies! Friends and family encouraged me to enter and I sent off the required 4 photos and 100 words, never expecting to hear anything back let alone be 1 of 5 finalists!”

“The day of filming was so nerve wracking and I’m definitely not a natural in front of the camera. My 3-minute segment is the last of the finalists to be shown on 1st June, then its open to a public vote. The winner is announced at Gardeners Worlds Live at the Birmingham NEC on June 14th. I’m really looking forward to attending the event as I finally get to meet Monty Don, my gardening hero! Even if I don’t win I’m still really proud to have got this far and love spending time in my tiny garden.”

Although Zoe is quickly becoming a television star, she hasn’t forgotten about her M&S colleagues, “I’ve had fantastic support from the team and colleagues I’ve worked with across the business over the last 5 years.”

If you’re looking to follow in Zoe’s footsteps, luckily, she has some very simple tips, “If you’re new to gardening just give it a go! It can be hard work, but it is so rewarding, which is exactly the same advice I’d give on joining M&S!”

Inside M&S
24 May, 2018

A simply perfect location

As the 7th largest city in the UK with 440,000 residents, Sheffield offers a lot of opportunity for us and we’re putting it as a priority. Making our mark on such an influential city is very important to us, so we’re taking it one step at a time to get it right – starting with our new M&S Simply Food Norton Park store.

Speaking with the new Store Manager, Berni, we gained an insight into how the store will have an impact on our customers, colleagues and the community. “Norton is a fantastic location for our new M&S Simply Food store. It has great network links with easy access to Sheffield Centre and Chesterfield, and the team are very excited to welcome customers to this new M&S.”

Sitting in the middle of two major roads, the A61 and A6102, it’s perfect for colleagues travelling in from all directions. The store has a very special connection to the community that makes it even more important to the area. “The store is part of a development which was part of a local school that many of the local community would have attended. As part of the design features of the building, the store will have a living wall and fabulous windows allowing lots of natural light.”

With a reputation to uphold for the store already, we’re looking for brilliant new colleagues who can set the standard. We’re currently on the lookout for:

Sales Floor Customer Assistants

Store Operations Customer Assistants

In-Store Bakery Assistants

FHSO

Admin Assistant

There are various shifts available and you can find out more about what each of these roles entail here.

Inside M&S
21 May, 2018

The Good, The Bap and The Downright Delicious

Bap, barm, butty… whatever you call it, the sandwich is one of this country’s proudest achievements. To celebrate British Sandwich Week (20 to 26 May, 2018), we’ve asked our recruitment team to share their favourites and explore why sarnies are iconic at M&S.

Ever since John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, ordered cold beef between slices of toast, his name has become synonymous with the ultimate in convenience food.

Today, sandwiches are a worldwide obsession. Everyone is competing to put their own spin on them – from New Yorkers packing their bread with pickles and pastrami, to the Germans bulking them out with something called frikadellen! In Vietnam, they have the ‘banh mi’ – a product of its French colonial past, pairing crusty baguettes with Asian style pork and veggies. Delicious!

And for M&S, we certainly hold sandwiches close to our heart. Many retailers come up with their own creations, but few are as successful as us. Did you know we were the first retailer to bring the Turkey Feast to the UK high street? It’s all the flavours of Christmas Dinner between two slices of bread.

Of course, our competitors pinch a few of our ideas – but that’s where our Product Developers and Food Technologists come into their own. They whip up sensational new recipes and continue making them more irresistible as the years go by.

Every one of our customers looks to us for the finest quality – especially in our Food Halls. For us, the sandwich has become a symbol of how we can take something so common, and make it better by being innovative and in-touch with modern tastes.

Want the inside scoop on some of the best sarnies we serve up? Look no further. We asked some of our recruitment team to tell us their favourites, and the results are in.

Tom:

“Egg Mayonnaise! You can have it morning noon or night. Rain, wind or shine. It’s the sandwich that keeps giving from first to last bite.”

Steph:

“It’s got to be the Coronation Chicken. Mainly because it has onion seeds in the bread. It adds a lovely flavour!”

Helen:

“Am I allowed a wrap? My favourite is the Chicken Caesar – yum, yum! But, if I had to pick a sandwich, it would be a good, old-fashioned BLT.”

Andrew:

“It’s got to be the New York Deli Pastrami if I’m feeling adventurous or the Ham and Mustard Mayo when I’m not!”

Kim:

“Got to be the Hoisin Duck Wrap for me… reminds me of my favourite Chinese meal and the wrap makes me think I am being healthy!”

Sam:

“Classic Tuna and Sweetcorn but it must be eaten with Salt and Vinegar crisps! Prawn mayo is also a front runner for me and has been a staple in the M&S sandwich collection for some years.”

Catherine:

“The Salt Beef and Coleslaw is amazing.”

Catalina:

“My favourite is a tossup between the Wensleydale and Carrot Chutney or the New York Deli Salt Beef on rye bread, with a side of chicken teriyaki skewers!”

Zoe:

“Christmas Turkey Feast!”

Helena:

“The humble Ham and Cheese for me.”

Inside M&S
18 May, 2018

A RIGHT ROYAL CELEBRATION FOR OUR WINDSOR TEAM

The excitement is mounting, the crowds have been gathering, the TV people are setting up and the finishing touches are being made up at the Castle. As if you needed telling, it’s the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Our Windsor store is just a two-minute walk from where it will all be happening. But ask the people who work there and it’s not ‘Windsor M&S’… it’s ‘Royal Windsor M&S’! And they even have their own mission statement: ‘Setting the Royal Standard’. So how does it feel to work in such a prestigious setting, especially at a time like this, and how will our store be celebrating the big day?

Caroline started with M&S as a 16-year-old weekend girl, and 26 years later she’s still in love with our brand and working as Section Manager in Womenswear, Kidswear & Beauty. “We are in a unique location and it’s lovely to have the global interest. Everyone is proud to work here and that’s gone a long way to creating such a warm and friendly atmosphere; it’s like being part of a family.”

These thoughts are echoed by Shela, who has also worked her way up to Section Manager having started as a Christmas temp. Shela enjoys retail management because it gives her the opportunity to think big, drive sales and, above all, deliver exceptional customer service – so she’s in the right place. “Being just down the road from the Castle, we are a proud store. People expect high-end displays and service, and we’re an inspired and exceptionally happy team that wants nothing but the best for our customers.”

As well as being proud of our Windsor store, our team is proud of the town itself and want to do their bit for the community. Caroline, who has lived in Windsor all her life, has another job helping to care for the elderly. Abigail, Store Manager, who has worked her way through various roles over 10 years and now takes charge of everything at the store from the sales floor to the backstage logistics, is involved in a local waste distribution scheme to reduce the amount we throw away. “It’s a picturesque town steeped in royal history,” she says. And Shela shares her enthusiasm: “Being a tourist town, we get to meet people from all over the world who are always excited to be in Windsor. We talk to them not just about the store but about what’s going on in the town.”

And tourists will certainly be descending on Windsor this weekend. According to Caroline, wedding fever has been building for weeks. “The Changing of the Guard happens every day, and we’re lucky to have that on our doorstep. Now we’re playing our part in hosting the Royal Wedding. I’ll be on the Long Walk, with 92,000 others, soaking up the atmosphere, celebrating the occasion and looking forward to a peek at Harry and Meghan.”

There’s also a lot happening closer to home. Our home. “There are lots of Royal Wedding-themed products in store and bespoke window displays,” says Abigail. “We’re having a big celebration for all our team and there are lots of things planned for Saturday, including a ‘Big Reveal’.”

We’ve an inclination what the ‘Big Reveal’ is. But, quite rightly, our lips are sealed…

Inside M&S
18 May, 2018

CELEBRATING THE NEIGHBOURS’ WEDDING

The Royal Wedding’s taking place in Windsor, of course. But after the bunting and pageantry, the celebrations and the honeymoon, Prince Harry and his bride Meghan are moving into a new apartment in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London.

M&S High Street Kensington is just down the road from the Palace. Martyn is the Store Manager. “My store is on a busy, vibrant street and attracts locals, commuters and tourists as our valued customers,” he says. “In fact, we welcome some 100,000 customers each week, and being so close to Kensington Palace, there’s a special feel. We have always offered the very best of M&S, but we’re currently working to make the store even better by expanding our range of childrenswear and introducing a new hot food offer.”

But maybe that will be put on hold for a few days. Naturally, Martyn is keen to raise a glass or two to mark the nuptials of his neighbours. “People will want to celebrate in style and we have everything they need – from fizz to fairy cakes and even commemorative biscuit tins, it’s all here under one roof. There are special display windows and welcome zones to get customers into Royal Wedding mood. And there’s even be a red, white and blue-layered cake in our Café.”

Martyn’s in for a busy few days, so will he have time to celebrate with his team? “We’ll make time!” he laughs. “On Saturday, there will be a special royal menu in our canteen so team members can make it an occasion to remember. I’ll personally be having a party with friends who love all things royal. No doubt it will involve a glass or two of our Prosecco!”

Should Harry and Meghan decide to pop into their local M&S for food or clothing, they will be guaranteed a warm welcome. “I work with an amazing team of people and the way they strive to make every moment special for our customers never ceases to impress me. It’s also great to get feedback from our customers. If the feedback is good, it motivates me to continue to get things right; if it’s not, I look for ways to make things better,” Martyn says.

Kensington Palace is not the only royal focus for Martyn’s store. Because of its location, it’s also heavily connected to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, which has traditionally been a highlight in HM The Queen’s calendar. We’ve exhibited at the show for several years running now, always looking to come up with new theme to showcase a collection of beautiful blooms.

Martyn is not a born-and-bred Londoner. He joined M&S in Newcastle some 15 years ago as part of a placement programme. He then worked in stores across north-east and north-west England before arriving in the capital. He loves being part of the local community and doing something for it, highlighting his store’s donation of unsold food to the Felix project to provide meals for those down on their luck.

And he loves London. “It’s such a vibrant city and really does have something for everyone. I particularly enjoy all the green spaces we have, absolutely perfect for when I want to switch off and relax for a while.”

M&S. A store near a Palace. And London itself. No wonder Martyn says he’s never looked back.

Inside M&S
16 May, 2018

MAKING THE MOST OF RISING TALENT

It’s Deaf Awareness Week – a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our deaf colleagues right across M&S. This year we spoke to Zofia: an undergraduate currently based in our Food PR team on a 12-month placement. This inspiring student talked to us about her life, how she came to be at M&S and what her plans are for the future.

“My love of food started at an early age – I’ve always really enjoyed baking and my favourite subject at school was Food Technology. My teacher became my role model - she was very strict and could be scary sometimes but she really believed in me and knew I had the drive to succeed. As part of the A Level course I took an internship at Rhokett, one of M&S’ main dessert suppliers. Here I saw some of the amazing food that M&S creates. The team were making our ‘famous’ Belgium Chocolate Jaffa Sphere while I was there. Yum! I have an M&S store near where I live and I always get excited every time I go in and can’t resist trying anything new, especially chocolate!

“While I loved Food Technology at school, I did struggle academically and people often doubted my ability – this spurred me on to prove them wrong. I worked so hard and achieved really high grades for my GCSEs (A* to Cs) – this was a turning point for me. Before that I didn’t see myself as an academic person and never envisaged I would go to university. But now after three A-levels (A* A* B), I’m at Sheffield Hallam University studying Food Marketing Management. I’m really proud of myself and how far I have come.

“I’ve always had incredibly supportive family and friends but being deaf has obviously been a challenge for me, particularly when I was younger. I do feel that young people can misjudge people with disabilities because they don’t understand and don’t know how to act normally with them. After doing so well at school, I decided to have a break and take a gap year and spent an amazing four months in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. This made me more confident, independent and sociable and helped me at university, where I met wonderful people and was in a very supportive environment with friends and tutors.

“As part of my university degree, I chose to do a 12-month industry placement. I applied to several places but was so thrilled when I was accepted at M&S as a Food Press Assistant. It’s a busy role that sees me regularly liaise with journalists and organise events like press shows. It’s a buzzy environment and I love the fact I’ve been given so much responsibility. Every day I work with lots of creative people and learn something new. I’ve grown a lot as a person while working here and I feel that I will have achieved so much by the time I leave. I’ve always worked hard and have become very career driven – I’d absolutely love to come back to M&S. Save me a chair in the new smarter working set-up!

“If I could give anyone advice with hearing loss I’d say be positive and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you are deaf, because you can! Carry on, even if it’s a long ride, never give up.” When asked how having hearing loss has shaped Zofia as a person, she said “I feel I do stand out in a positive way. I love a Richard Branson quote about his own disability, dyslexia: ‘It’s a gift, not a disability but your greatest strength’”.

Inside M&S

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