24 August, 2018

BEING ACCEPTED FOR WHO YOU ARE

Chris is an M&S Trainee Section Manager in London and an asexual gay man who puts himself in the bear sub-culture. One of the reasons he joined M&S was because we are a member of the LGBT charity Stonewall and he thought that we’d be a good fit.

But coming out at work was not easy. Chris’s grandma had not exactly responded favourably when he told her about his sexuality, and working with many colleagues who were a lot older than him – if not quite of her generation – he agonised over coming out in the workplace, to put it mildly. “When I finally came out, I had my resignation letter in my pocket, I was that churned up,” he tells us. “But luckily everyone was so supportive. Kim, my line manager, simply asked me whether I fancied a brew! So it was no big deal and nothing changed in the workplace, except my confidence which increased no end.”

Chris believes that M&S is a “great LGBT+ employer”, although he believes that we could be more focused on LGBT+ health issues. He points to social networking within the business and how anything can be raised on Facebook or Yammer, and adds: “There will always be people with personal biases against others, but I feel that M&S deals with these issues very quickly.”

Chris is pleased and proud that M&S supports the LGBT+ community, particularly with charity days for the Terrence Higgins Trust to help people with HIV/AIDS, and involvement in Pride events. He’s been to numerous Pride events and has been instrumental in organising two – one in Manchester, which Chris describes as a city unlike any other.

“Personally, Pride to me is a reminder of what happened in New York all those years ago. It’s a wonderful celebration of being who you are without fear or prejudice.” And if Chris were to be given a free hand to create a window display at an M&S store to celebrate Pride? “I would go over the top! The scene would start with a couple of mannequins wearing the current summer collection and holding beach umbrellas, then at various intervals Rainbow glitter would pour down from the sky.”

We asked Chris how society’s attitudes have changed towards the LGBT+ community. He believes that people are more aware and accepting of LGBT+ rights and culture, and highlights the role of television. “It was Channel 4 that was the first network to broadcast a soap with an LGBT+ storyline, and then featured a lesbian kiss on ‘Brookside’. Later on there was Russell T. Davies’s ‘Queer As Folk’. These shows paved a path for acceptance of LGBT+ people.” But there’s still more to do and Chris sounds a note of warning: “I would like to see a reduction in hate crimes although, being honest, I can’t see that happening soon.”

Growing up in a middle-class black family, Chris had no real exposure to the LGBT+ world until he was seven or eight. That’s when he went to the local video shop to rent ‘The Net’ starring Sandra Bullock, only to be given ‘Paris Is Burning’ by mistake. “I must have watched that video 50 times,” he says. “I believe that documentary helped shape me to become the person I am today.”

Inside M&S
22 August, 2018

THE RIGHT PRODUCTS ONLINE, AT THE RIGHT TIME

Do you browse or shop on marksandspencer.com? If you’re a regular visitor to the site, you’ll have noticed that roses are online in time for Valentine’s Day, raincoats in time for those inevitable April showers, swimsuits in time for the hot weather (fingers crossed) and festive produce in time for Christmas.

That doesn’t happen by accident; it happens because of the foresight and dedication of the M&S Dot Com team. But team members such as Hayley do more than get products from all areas of our business online at the right time of year. “I also make sure that we have inspirational imagery and fantastic content for our online customers,” she explains. “We’re always looking to raise the bar in this and we stay close to the M&S Marketing team, which supports us with creative direction and model sign-offs, as well as with the Dot Com Development team.”

Our Dot Com business employs 37 talents, 16 in London and 21 in Chennai in India. Our online shopping site was originally owned by Amazon, but in 2014 the time was right to launch our own site. M&S also has the largest automated e-com distribution centre in Europe, 12 times the size of Wembley Stadium. Our record is despatching 321,000 single items in a day!

There’s something else, too. “We have a very distinct culture and Dot Com was embracing ‘smarter working’ long before it became fashionable,” Hayley says. “Everything we do, we do with the customer front of mind. As a team, we review customer insight reports on a weekly basis. For a long time, customers have been telling us they want video content on the site. We’re now running a test with 150 womenswear product videos and will be measuring various metrics over the coming weeks with a view to rolling out more.”

Hayley started out with M&S as a Customer Assistant in Lingerie. After a series of roles across different business units, she moved to Finance & Operations. Following a regional role in Project Management, Hayley moved to Dot Com, where she enjoyed three roles over four years in Operations & Development before moving to Content & Imagery. “I’ve been supported in so many ways: training courses, inspirational line managers, new opportunities and mentoring, which is especially useful,” she says. “Ten per cent of our working week is allocated to individual development and I also have the flexibility to work from home or at other locations if it helps.”

Hayley believes in injecting some fun into the team, as it’s important in terms of working together, meeting new people and building relationships. But sometimes you have to be serious…

“Grenfell Tower. People lost their lives, homes and possessions. We wanted to help in any way we could. So we sent food lorries, donated toiletries and clothes, and made collections in the office. It was a heartfelt response at such a tragic time and I felt proud to be part of the team.”

Inside M&S
17 August, 2018

BE PART OF OUR LATEST INVESTMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Last year, M&S celebrated 50 years of serving people in Northern Ireland. Earlier this year, we opened a Food Hall close to Belfast International Airport, taking our number of stores in the province to over 20. Now, we’re delighted to announce the opening of a new M&S Simply Foods in Craigavon.

And what a location for our latest investment! Situated 21 miles south west of Belfast, and lying between the larger towns of Lurgan and Portadown, Craigavon is a lovely, friendly community of 16,000 people. We’re excited, not only about attracting shoppers from the across the area, but in being able to offer some fantastic jobs to local people.

It will be a great place to work. Located on the former B&Q site, Craigavon will be one of our larger Simply Foods stores, measuring 7,000 sq. ft. It will have an In-Store Bakery and also offer our increasingly popular Click & Collect service. The store will be easily accessible from the M1, and if you like doing something a bit different on your breaks, rumour has it that a trampoline park will be opening nearby!

We’ve already lined up some amazing people to make the new store a success, but there are still lots of roles we’re looking to fill including: Sales Floor Customer Assistants, Store Operations Customer Assistants, In-Store Bakery Assistants

There will be a variety of shifts available, from early morning to late evening. So there’s every chance we’ll have something that fits around your other commitments and lifestyle.

We’d like you to meet Gareth, the new M&S Store Manager in Craigavon:

“I can’t wait for the new store to open. We’ve already been made to feel so welcome in Craigavon, and we’re really looking forward to serving our customers, bringing local people into the team and playing a full part in the life of the community.”

Inside M&S
6 August, 2018

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF TECHNOLOGY

No retailer can afford to stand still these days – and those that thrive will be the ones who not only embrace new technology but are prepared to experiment and be the trailblazers. And that’s M&S, according to Israel, an Engineering Manager in our Software Engineering team.

Israel was one of the first to join our Software Engineering graduate programme some four years ago. Now the ‘graduate’ is line-managing other graduates, helping with their career development in areas such as business awareness, personal development and leadership.

In his time with us, Israel has seen at first-hand how we’re pushing the boundaries of technology. “I don’t think people realise how innovative we are,” he says. “We’ve implemented things like the Honeywell mobile device – which has eradicated the problem of carrying single purpose devices for service, sales and task – Radio Frequency Identifications (RFIDs) and Touch Screen Order Points (TSOPs). We’ve put a lot of time into cyber security, too. But there are other cutting-edge technologies that we‘ve tried, tested and decided weren’t right for us. We have a thriving Engineering community in which people are empowered and encouraged to try new things. Sometimes they work for us, sometimes they don’t.”

Before moving into his present role, Israel was part of our Staff Assisted Apps team and was involved in developing many of the apps for the Honeywells such as the Trading Safely & Legally Apps and the Date Expired Food App, which significantly reduces waste and saves huge sums of money, as well as delivering proof of concepts for colleagues.

“I would say that we differ from our competitors in that we deliver our software in an agile way. We sometimes deliver multiple iterations of an app with colleagues sitting alongside us to make sure they are fit for purpose.” Israel cites the time he worked in-store for a few days to streamline the Collect process. “We collaborated a lot with colleagues and involved two people in particular to develop the Collect App, which saved them time and made their jobs easier.”

Israel had no experience of IT in retail when he joined M&S, but he now gets a real buzz sharing his knowledge with other graduates and guiding them day to day. He plays his part in ensuring graduates get a rounded view of the business by arranging presentations from other teams in IT.

He also loves the fact that M&S is a pioneer in garment technology, with innovations such as our Stay New technology, which guarantees clothes keep their colour even after multiple washes, and Storm Wear technology. “I discovered that we did water-resistant jeans when I was working on our Knowledge to Share App. It was like a ‘light bulb’ moment for me!”

Inside M&S
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

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