3 August, 2018

JOINING THE PRIDE CELEBRATIONS IN BELFAST

This year, for the first time, M&S will be taking part in the Pride celebrations in Belfast, Northern Ireland – the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still to be legalised. We caught up with Carl, a gay man and drag queen who works in the coffee shop at our Lisburn store, to talk about Pride, being LGBT+ in the Province and his experiences at M&S.

Carl has taken part in three Pride events in Belfast. “The first time I went with friends and it was an incredible experience. I wore the Pride flag, as I always do, and my favourite red wig at the time – everyone was so loving and accepting,” he remembers. “Pride for me shows everyone that, no matter who you are, you should just be yourself and embrace it. Never be afraid to show your true colours! It’s great that M&S will be taking part in the Belfast Pride celebrations for the first time as it shows that, as a company, we believe that people can be themselves whatever their role, and we accept people for who they are.”

Carl grew up in Dromore, a small town in the middle of the Northern Irish countryside. When he was young he remembers LGBT+ was never really discussed, but that changed as he got older. “Once people heard about LGBT+, they reacted according to their opinions and beliefs. I’ve seen a lot of anger and hatred, but at the same time I’ve seen the kindness and love of true people.” Carl can’t wait for Northern Ireland to allow people to marry who they want – and that’s not all. “There are a lot of changes we need to make, apart from same-sex marriage. One should be to lift the ban on LGBT+ people being allowed to give blood.”

Working at our Lisburn store as a gay man and drag queen, Carl believes he has had nothing but 100% support from his colleagues. Every year, the store holds an annual dinner, usually in March, and every year…

“I have gone in my nice outfit and my killer heels,” Carl tells us. “And for our 29th annual dinner I went in full drag. I got a round of applause and could feel the admiration for not being afraid to show who I am. I received a big ‘thank-you’ and ‘well done’ from so many colleagues and managers. It was the talk of the store for at least a week and a fantastic experience. Here’s to the people I work with – you are so lovely and kind!”

But Carl feels that there is always something more we can do to support the LGBT+ community. “I’d like us to look again at our ‘his and her’ items, and have more ‘his and his’ and ‘her and her’. And I’d love to see a window display with Rainbow flags at the back and four mannequins, two male and two female standing back to back, wearing the Rainbow t-shirt and showing the love!”

Inside M&S
26 July, 2018

INDIA, GREECE, HONG KONG… AND BACK TO PADDINGTON

When Adam joined M&S as a Graduate Trainee at our Watford store back in 1997 – with a degree in Accounting & Finance – he was not just embarking on a retail career, but an international adventure full of twists and turns. Looking back, he says: “The leadership opportunities I’ve had over the years have been amazing.”

After two years in Watford, during which he personally managed the Christmas shop, Adam joined what was called M&S Ventures. “This was a division that was set up to look at how we could leverage the M&S brand in this new thing called the internet!” Adam remembers. He then spent seven years in Merchandising covering shirts, knitwear and other garments; in 2007, he set up our online Made-to-Measure shirts, a first in UK retail.

A year later Adam moved to India with his wife and 18-month-old daughter to set up a joint venture between M&S and Reliance Retail. “When we started we had 12 stores in India, today M&S has over 60 and the business has grown tenfold,” he says proudly. (Adam’s eldest son was born in India.)

Adam then moved to Greece to become our MD, not only of the country itself but of six surrounding territories. “I worked with the team in Greece to deliver for the customer in keeping with the challenging times we were living through.” (Adam’s youngest son was born in Greece!) He then returned to the UK as Head of Property for M&S before setting off on his travels once again.

This time to Hong Kong. Adam became our MD for Greater China, a region which comprises Hong Kong, Macau and China. The region is a huge market for M&S – in Hong Kong alone we have 27 stores and 35 million customers walk through our doors every year.

“My job in Hong Kong was to present the M&S brand in the best possible light and deliver a great customer experience, despite being 6,000 miles from the UK,” Adam says. “A key part of that was understanding customers’ different needs and priorities in the country and we worked very closely with the M&S International team to deliver. The stores over there are a lot smaller and how you arrange them is critical to success, although the principles of what we do throughout the world are the same. M&S has been in Hong Kong for 30 years and our top-selling line is almond biscuits!”

Adam quickly discovered just how many of the locals in Hong Kong are big fans of M&S. “At an event or night out, someone would always ask me a question about our products and then apologise for bothering me about ‘work’. The fact is, I loved it – I was always happy to provide an answer as I’m proud to be part of a business that customers truly care about.”

Adam returned to the UK at the turn of this year, and is now our Head of Space Planning based in Paddington – a role that involves interacting with lots of departments such as Buying, Retail, Property and Store Development, as well as of course with individual stores. “How we use our store space is integral to the shopping experience. Our aim is to achieve the best possible return per square foot and my team decides how many items are stocked in each store by business unit.” It’s been some career for Adam at M&S. The only question is – where will it take him next?

Inside M&S
19 July, 2018

SOLD ON A GREAT NEW JOB IN SELLY OAK?

A brand new shopping park is opening in Selly Oaks, a lovely part of south-west Birmingham – and our new M&S Simply Food store will be right at the heart of this exciting development.

The store will include a Food Hall and an In-Store Bakery, and we’re looking forward to welcoming all kinds of shoppers. The Birmingham University campus is close by and new student accommodation is part of a bigger regeneration of the area. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital complex is also just a stone’s throw away.

The shopping park is being built on the new link road bypass for the A38, a main arterial road that links the city centre to Junction 4 of the M5. The pleasant suburbs of Edgbaston, Harborne, Moseley and Kings Norton are a short drive away, and there will be on-site parking available. What’s more, our new store will be just a ten-minute walk from Selly Oak train station.

But if we’re ideally situated for shoppers, we’re also in a great location for local people who want to be part of our new team. We’re going to need a whole host of people who can make our new store a success:

Sales Floor Customer Assistants

Store Operations Customer Assistants

In-Store Bakery Assistants

Admin Assistant

We’ll be offering both full-and part-time opportunities, and we’ll be looking to fill a variety of shifts from early morning until late evening, so there could well be something that will fit in with your family or study commitments.

Let’s hear from Hannah, who’s going to be our new Store Manager in Selly Oak:

“I’m excited to be opening our new M&S store in Selly Oak, such a fantastic and unique area of Birmingham. We’ll be surrounded by families and students, so we’re very conscious that we are at the heart of the community and have a very real responsibility to play our part in Selly Oak’s life.”

Inside M&S
12 July, 2018

OUR LATEST BRISTOL OPENING IS COMING TO CLIFTON

We’re thrilled to announce the opening of a new convenience store in Clifton, situated right on Whiteladies Road, one of the main arteries running through the surrounding areas of Bristol.

Our store, which will come complete with its very own coffee vending machine, is set to be located underneath a new residential development, right opposite the BBC studios. We’ll be recruiting for a wide range of different opportunities.

Various shifts are available in Operations, and for Customer Assistants, In Store Bakery Assistants, FHSO, and Admin Assistants. Clifton Down train station is located nearby, alongside frequent buses. Local parking is available, but with a permit.

Here’s what store manager Greg has to say about our new M&S Whiteladies Road store:

“Clifton is a beautiful suburb of Bristol, fantastically diverse and located just a five-minute drive away from the centre. It is renowned for having some of the most iconic spots in Bristol, including Brunel’s famous Suspension Bridge, the Observatory, and Bristol Zoo. It was also recently named the best city to live in the UK.”

Apply for a job at our new Whiteladies Road store here.

Inside M&S
11 July, 2018

WE’RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

World Cup excitement has reached fever pitch across M&S and we’re all willing the team to keep the magnificent run going against Croatia tonight.

“England has reached the semi-finals and we couldn’t be more delighted,” said David, our Head of Menswear Buying. We are, of course, ‘Official Tailor to the England Team’ and David added: “Some are saying that THE waistcoat has been bringing the team extra luck, so we launched National Waistcoat Day on Saturday and we defeated Sweden in the quarter-finals.

C’mon England – let’s hope they bring it home.

It’s a sentiment being echoed by colleagues in our stores, at our head offices and in our distribution centres. And many have taken to wearing the waistcoat, although not always with the smart shirt and tie that Mr Southgate wears on the touchline. Here’s a pic from a photoshoot we held at our Waterside Head Office – at M&S we don’t miss a chance to have some fun and a bit of a party!

You can do it tonight, boys – so let’s make it #WaistcoatWednesday!

Inside M&S
10 July, 2018

SHARING HISTORY: M&S AND THE RAF

When it comes to answering our country’s call, M&S and our dedicated colleagues have always stepped up to the plate. In the Second World War, we created a magazine for colleagues called ‘The Forces Bulletin’. We encouraged employees to train as Air Raid Wardens and Fire Watchers. M&S Café Bars opened up, providing a break from rationing. Our experts helped set the standard for Utility Clothing. And lest we forget, former colleagues who laid down their lives in various conflicts.

But our attention turns to 1938, a year before WW2 broke out. That’s when Simon Marks, M&S Chairman and son of our founder, helped form the RAF Cadets. Only £7,000 had been pledged towards a target of £25,000 to create the Cadets and Simon personally made up the balance. Over 300 M&S employees served in the RAF during the conflict and Simon retained a lifelong interest in the Air Cadets. It was the beginning of historic ties between the RAF and M&S.

Our two organisations have so much in common, such as a flair for innovation and a dogged determination to modernise and stay relevant through generations. And we have much to celebrate together. So we’re proud to announce a new partnership with the RAF to mark its 100 years of service.

M&S and our colleagues are throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the celebration. Steve Rowe, CEO of M&S, and Air Vice-Marshal Mike Wigston CBE recently opened an RAF exhibition at the M&S Archive in Leeds to showcase our joint histories. We’ve pledged to raise £500,000 in M&S stores up and down the country for the RAF100 Appeal. These funds will inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and technology specialists by providing scholarships, training and university bursaries for air cadets and school pupils from underprivileged backgrounds. We have also designed a limited-edition men’s leather flying jacket which are on sale online and in selected M&S stores. The jacket named ‘The Marksman’ is a nod to the M&S colleagues who raised £5,000 in 1941 to fund a new Spitfire for the RAF war effort, named ‘The Marksman’.

Steve Rowe said: “Our connection with the RAF runs deeper than our shared history; the RAF’s values of integrity and service mirror our own. The RAF’s spirit of relentless innovation, that has led it to flourish 100 year after its inception, reflects our own transformation from our entrepreneurial roots as a Leeds market stall to becoming a British retail institution.’’

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, responded: “RAF100 is a moment for the whole nation, so the support of M&S, another national institution, for the RAF100 Appeal is a tremendous demonstration of our shared values and intent.”

The RAF: we salute you!

Inside M&S
9 July, 2018

‘ANYONE FOR TENNIS?’ SIMON’S HAND SHOOTS UP…

From the first serve in the first match at Wimbledon on Monday, Simon’s going to have to rely on all his self-discipline to remain focused on his important job at M&S. There’s probably no bigger fan of the sport in the M&S family, having been in love with the game since he picked up a racket at primary school.

Simon has been with M&S for 18 years. He had store management roles in both Foods and Clothing & Home, before moving to HR some 10 years ago. Simon worked as a Learning & Development Consultant, then as part of our Continuous Improvement team. He’s been a HR Business Partner for five years, now Regional Head in the South East with particular responsibilities for our Talent & Culture plan, using what he learned in his early M&S career. Simon also represents his specialism as part of our Business Involvement Group, which gives him access to senior leaders and an insight into the wider business.

So we asked Simon about the tennis. A chance to unwind away from business life? “I put a lot into my job so it’s good to have a hobby. My passion for tennis started when I was 10,” he told us. “I picked up the sport and in my late teens I was entering tournaments and even had trials for Sussex – a great feeling. Then I turned to coaching and my local council employed me to teach under 12s. Getting paid to do something I love, simply a dream come true!”

Simon doesn’t walk into the office in full kit swinging a racket, but we think we knew about his passion for tennis, as he heads off to at least one tournament every year, be that in the US, France or Canada. So six years ago… no, we’ll let Simon tell the story. “One of my best experiences was being a Game Maker at the 2012 London Olympics, for the tennis hosted at Wimbledon. I was lucky that M&S could give me the time off to be a volunteer for the 10 days of the event. My role was looking after all the other volunteers. It was great to see what goes on behind the scenes and even meet some of the players. And when it was quiet we could go and watch on Centre Court.”

And now Wimbledon is here again. Simon remembers his first experience, having received tickets in the ballot, but unfortunately it turned into a damp squib. “The British weather got in the way and it rained all day long. No tennis, but look on the bright side, we did hear Cliff Richard sing and had strawberries and cream!”

Not put off, Simon’s been back time and again, and it’s more than the action on the courts that gives him a buzz – it’s the atmosphere of camping overnight for a ticket, the build-up, meeting people from different nationalities strumming guitars or kicking a football about. “Pitching your tent up the day before and camping overnight just to ensure you get a Centre Court ticket – that’s dedication.”

And that’s something Simon gives to his day job at M&S every single day.

Inside M&S
4 July, 2018

STACKS OF OPPORTUNITIES

Our Castle Donington Distribution Centre in Derbyshire has to be seen to be believed. It’s 900,000 sq. ft. of the latest technology. It has nine miles of hanging garments and 39 cranes. It holds up to 16 million products and, at its peak, delivers over two million single orders every week, keeping both our in-store and online customers happy.

Melissa has not only seen it, she’s a big part of it, as a Team Manager in Inbound Operations.

She joined M&S in 2016 attracted by our reputation, not only for providing products of amazing quality but for looking after our colleagues and caring for their wellbeing. And she hasn’t looked back since, working in different departments across the site to gain a wealth of experience. “M&S has always listened to my requests on how I want to develop my career. I’m continually broadening my knowledge of site operations and there are loads of projects I can get involved in.” she says.

Within Inbound Operations, Melissa manages the team that is responsible for ensuring the correct stock is received within set timeframes from suppliers and holding centres. It’s a pivotal role, too. “Ultimately, I have to make sure that the products we receive will meet the high standards of quality our customers expect. The pace is fast, and there are daily and weekly targets we have to meet for both boxed and hanging goods. And of course we have to enter everything onto the automated system,” she says.

Melissa is proud that whenever she tells someone that she works for M&S there’s an immediate smile in return as people have positive memories of their shopping experience, whether it’s an item of clothing that caught the eye or some fantastic food they’ve tried. “Everyone at Castle Donington shares the same goal: to provide customers with the best shopping experience,” she says. “That’s why we work so well with other departments. We troubleshoot together. Everyone is clear on our strategy and objectives. And most importantly of all, people are friendly, helpful and supportive.”

Having ‘done the rounds’ of Castle Donington, nobody is better qualified than Melissa to say what type of person thrives at the site. “You need to be determined, passionate and enthusiastic. You have to be able to take targets in your stride. And you have to be committed to maintaining the highest standards.”

Would you fit the bill? Apply now.

Inside M&S
2 July, 2018

PROVIDING THE BEST CENTRE COURT SERVICE

Wimbledon, of course, is synonymous with tennis and the main shopping mall in this part of south-west London is aptly named Centre Court. Right at the heart of it is the M&S Simply Food store, one of our top 15 Simply Food stores nationwide. Being connected to a busy Tube and train station, the store is a hive of activity from the crack of dawn to late evening all year round, with customers popping in to grab breakfast, a lunchtime sandwich or a dinner meal, or to do a full weekly shop. But for two weeks of the year, footfall goes off the scale.

Tom leads a team of 75 people who go out of their way to make every moment special for every customer. So, is he ready for the crowds? “Over the years, we’ve become a destination shop for people leaving the train for the tournament. We’ve been working with Head Office on tennis themes, made sure colleagues in other stores are on stand-by to provide cover, and we’re completely transforming the food hall. Pimm’s, Prosecco, strawberries, cream – it will be easy for everyone to find their tennis-watching essentials!”

It’s difficult not to get caught up in the excitement. “You get to meet a whole new set of customers who don’t shop with you all year round, many of them tourists, all in great spirits for their day out. It’s really satisfying helping to make their day special,” says Tom.

And he believes that the real secret of doing that is teamwork. “We work hard together as a team before, during and after the tennis to make the store a success, but it’s important to have a little fun along the way. We’ll be celebrating at our morning and evening team briefings, and we’ll be putting together a small event afterwards to say thank you to our colleagues.”

If anyone can meet the demands of the next two weeks, it’s Tom. His family have their own retail business and Tom joined the M&S Retail Management Graduate Scheme straight after university, attracted by the quality of our products and services, and keen to be part of our iconic brand. As his career has evolved, he’s not only taken the fast pace of M&S in his stride, but he positively thrives on it!

“I love the fact that no two days are the same. Something might happen at 8am which completely changes your plan for the day; this certainly keeps you on your toes,” he says. “To a certain extent I’m my own boss; it’s up to me to get the best out of my store and there’s no better feeling than when one of your ideas becomes a success.

“Ultimately, though, the job is about people. Your team is your biggest asset and you interact with so many customers and colleagues, having different conversations throughout the day. If you enjoy a fast-moving environment and want to make a real difference to people, this is definitely the job for you.”

Inside M&S
29 June, 2018

A MOST TRUSTED ALLY

Carol is a HR Administrator in our Salford Quays M&S in Manchester. As an ally of the LGBT+ world, she doesn’t identify as LGBT+, but she has a strong passion for making a difference in a community that is more accepted than ever. And that passion in particular is about turning intolerance into inclusion and inequality into equal rights. “There is a lot of acceptance, but still a long way to go – especially for trans people.”

Being an activist for such an important cause is closer to Carol’s heart due to her son identifying as gay. “I knew my son was gay when he was about seven – it has never bothered me.” And it has been her aim to support him in every way, “I don’t want him to be discriminated against.”

Although Carol’s LGBT+ journey began before joining M&S, having the opportunity to take part in two Pride events with the company and show support for colleagues and peers alike has enabled her to make even more of a difference. “Last year lots of people attended – my son and his partner came too – it was a fantastic day and great to meet colleagues from other locations.” And the support doesn’t stop at the parade. “The opportunity to use charity days to support the cause is fantastic.” And in store, Carol has noticed the inclusive nature of working at M&S. “I see no issues at work for my LGBT+ colleagues and I know plenty of people who work in store who have no issues.”

And although LGBT+ living is more accepted than ever, Carol encourages us to do more, whether that’s through raffles, fundraising, marching or simply sharing some positivity. Carol is leading the way and we’re keen to follow.

“Getting involved in Pride brings people together.”

Inside M&S

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