10 April, 2018

A MODERN STORE IN A HISTORIC TOWN

We’re pleased to announce that we’re opening a new M&S Simply Food in Bridgwater in Somerset. If ever there was an opportunity to lay down roots in such a quintessential English town – meeting the needs of customers who love quality food and providing jobs for local people – this is it.

Bridgwater is a market town steeped in history. It lies at the edge of Somerset Levels in well-wooded countryside, bordered by the River Parrett on both sides. Bridgwater has been a major in-land port and trading centre since the Industrial Revolution and most of its industrial bases are still standing today.

But as well as being a historic town, Bridgwater is expanding fast, looking to grow a population that currently stands at 40,000. We’ll be there for the local community but we’ll also extend a warm M&S welcome to shoppers from further afield. Bristol is 28 miles away; closer still, Taunton is just 12 miles away and accessible by the M5 motorway, rail and even canal!

Our new store will be based alongside other well-known retailers in the Gallagher Retail Park, on The Clink. The Gallagher Retail Park is close to junctions on the A38 and A39, and there will be 450 spaces available in the nearby car park.

The M&S Simply Food in Bridgwater will cover 7,000 sq. ft. of space, and comprise everything you’d expect in a modern M&S store, including an In-Store Bakery and Click & Collect service. But what will really count will be the people who make every moment special for our customers.

That could mean you. We’re going to need a whole host of people including: Sales Floor Customer Assistants, Store Operations Customer Assistants, In-Store Bakery Assistants, Fire, Health & Safety Officer and Admin Assistant.

For each of these roles, there will be a variety of shifts available, so you can fit work around your personal life. And, of course, you’ll enjoy all the fabulous benefits of being part of the M&S team.

Let’s leave the last word to Andy, the new Store Manager:

“We’re delighted to be opening a new M&S Simply Food in Bridgwater. There has been lots of excitement in the area and we’re looking forward to becoming part of the local community. The Gallagher Retail Park is a fantastic location where we will be able to showcase the very best of M&S food and drink, including a wide selection of innovative fresh produce and indulgent seasonal dining ideas.”

Keen to be part of it? Then apply here

Inside M&S
6 April, 2018

CUSTOMERS COME FIRST. EVEN AT 3AM.

Our Castle Donington Distribution Centre was a new venture for M&S when Gurjit joined us. He could see our plans and was excited to be part of the journey we were embarking on. The centre is a huge operation packed with state-of-the-art technology, which now processes around two million single orders a week. So was Gurjit worried about being ‘lost’ in this big machine?

“Not a bit of it! I was expecting Castle Donington to be a well-oiled commercial juggernaut, with opportunities for development, and it has more than met my expectations. The centre has a very personal feeling; you don’t get swallowed up and you can be yourself.”

Gurjit started as an agency colleague, before being offered a permanent contract. He progressed to being a Team Co-ordinator and then Team Manager on the night shift, after a secondment in the role. So while most of the world sleeps, he’s leading a team to ensure that customer orders are packed and despatched, engaging with other functions to ensure we live up to the ‘On Time, Every Time’ standard we have set ourselves.

“We pack a lot of orders that go straight to stores for customers to collect at a time that suits them. That’s great for everyone. The service is free for customers and it brings more footfall to stores, so customers can browse our other products while they’re there,” Gurjit says.

“We’re known for quality, so we take each customer order personally, as if it were our own. We often walk completed orders down to the trailers to ensure everything goes out on time and we can keep customers in the loop. Making every moment special for customers is something we take seriously, whatever the hour, and I’m proud to say that last year we broke our record for customer failure rate.”

While Gurjit goes out on a limb for customers, he has been fully supported in his development at M&S as he’s moved through the ranks. He’s attended lots of courses at our learning and training centre, and received active encouragement from his managers to take on new responsibilities.

But support goes deeper than that. Gurjit points to how we’ve made Castle Donington a very inclusive place to work, and how our charity days and fundraising activities help others. There’s one-to-one support too, and Gurjit has helped a colleague with a mental health condition through a particularly tough time by making workplace adjustments that go beyond the norm.

As a single parent, Gurjit has also been a recipient of our ‘look-out-for-each-other’ approach. “I’m a single parent and had been having childcare issues. M&S made it possible for me to arrive and finish earlier on my shift to look after my son. It reinforces the fact that you’re more than just a number at M&S.”

Inside M&S
3 April, 2018

M&S goes back to school

More often than not children do not have awareness of the breadth of career opportunities available to them when they leave school. People are often surprised to find out the extent of the roles we offer at M&S. That’s why we’re doing extensive work with schools - to ensure that young people are aware of the Apprenticeships we offer, as well as opportunities in the wider world of retailing.

Schools liaison this year has included our extensive work with Ark, which runs 35 schools in Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth. We gave Careers Carousel Talks on Food Technology and sent volunteers for speed networking at King Solomon’s School in North London. We supported BTEC courses in Hastings and will be helping them to produce new content moving forward. And we also ran a STEM Insight Day for schools in London, which introduced students to the role of technology at a major retailer. Watch our video to view our recent work with King Solomon Academy.

However, this really is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to reaching out to schools and their students, it’s been an energetic and powerful combination.

Inside M&S
29 March, 2018

From Christmas temp to preparing his own store for Easter

Sami joined the Cambridge store at just 16, and since then, he’s progressed to Section Manager and now Store Manager, heading up the Serpentine Green Food Hall in Peterborough. It not only gave Sami a great opportunity to join the new store, but gave his colleagues a new challenge too. “One of the most satisfying parts of my role is to see how this allows people to develop and grow within their roles and influence our business in a positive way.”

And for Sami, Easter is a big milestone for the store and his team. “In store, we’ll be celebrating the event across the week being our first Easter since the store has opened.” This includes involving the community in a shopping centre Easter egg hunt! It’s just one way that Sami wants to “bring the spirit of the season to life and engage with customers directly at a local level.” It’s a great way to welcome new customers and inject some fun into the store.

He’s also excited to spend some quality time with his own family too. “Our colleagues are looking forward to spending quality time with their families over Easter and I personally celebrate the event with my family over a traditional meal of roast lamb and board games in to the evening.” Having that balance helps keep his passion alive, delivering great customer service every time.

One of the brilliant parts of Sami’s job, that he gets to do all year round, is build relationships with charity partners in the community. Currently they support a fantastic charity called Centre 33. “Centre 33 work with and support children and young adults up to the age of 26 through difficult life circumstances. We are eagerly looking forward to working closely with them and raising money for the great work they do, making a sustainable difference in the community. We’re also involved in our food waste distribution scheme that ensures we cut the amount of waste that is thrown away and again goes to a great cause.”

For Sami, his whole role centres around people. His determination to progress stems from having a strong relationship with his colleagues and customers. “As a store manager, I work in an environment of empowerment and trust, working with my colleagues to deliver consistent results.”

Inside M&S
29 March, 2018

Springing into action for our customers

Chris joined M&S at the age of 19 as a Customer Assistant in Ealing Broadway. Now, 15 years later, he’s the Store Manager at one of the top stores in the business – Norwich. Famous for its food standards, it delivers some of the best presented Food Halls in M&S. And the people make it all the better: “Norwich M&S is full of so many passionate people who take real pride in their work. I view it as my honour to be the custodian of their store.”

Leading a team of 6 Commercial Managers, 20 Section Managers and 350 Customer Assistants, it’s Chris’ job to keep his colleagues’ passions alive and get them excited about upcoming and seasonal products. “We have the best Easter product on the High Street. My aim is to get our team excited about Easter because if they’re excited, our customers will be too.”

For Chris, that excitement goes beyond a team huddle. With the latest flavours of M&S Hot Cross Buns hitting shelves, he’s asked his team to taste and review the flavours – voting on a favourite on their store Facebook page. It’s all about making their experience more enjoyable so they can focus on the customer. “A simple thank you also goes a long way and we’ll be making sure that colleagues feel valued and thanked for their hard work in one of our biggest weeks.”

But Chris’ focus is always on the customer and their community. And that comes through in his passion for charity. “For Easter, we will be presenting two Easter Hampers to a local youth charity called MAP. We will be offering careers and skills advice to youngsters and giving them tours of the store. Showing them that the world of work, and retail specifically, is not a scary place!” And his charity efforts seem to be paying off as in 2017 Norwich M&S was awarded the Gold Award by Norwich for Jobs – a campaign to help reduce youth unemployment. Let’s hope they can pick up the 2018 award too!

But whether it’s Easter or any other time in the year, Chris is committed to both his colleagues and customers. “Retail is a people business and every day is an opportunity to make a positive difference to our customers and our colleagues.” He explains, “I’m lucky that I do a job where I feel trusted and empowered to lead my business in the way that I believe.”

Inside M&S
26 March, 2018

HOT CROSS BUNS, INSPIRED BY OUR CUSTOMERS

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns on the table. And this is where Mehdi comes into his own – he’s the Food Technologist responsible for our Bakery category. As he explains, his challenge is to bring a new twist to an old favourite:

“A hot cross bun is a quintessential British product. We all know what it should be: a soft, moist bun bursting with great fruits or inclusions, a superb glaze and shape, and of course a perfect crossing. But we’re M&S, so we’re always looking to tempt our customers with something new.”

Months of hard work have gone into creating this year’s hot cross bun range and the journey starts with our customers. “We identified which flavours might go down well with customers, but we had to be sure. So we asked them directly in stores, through surveys and in focus groups,” says Mehdi. “You can’t build a great food range without being crystal clear about what your customers want.”

And when we decided on the flavours, it was full-on into production. “We worked very closely with our supplier partners to reflect our customers’ preferences. It’s about being innovative while being mindful of tradition, and customers love the newness of our offering. Sales of our Blueberry buns and Kentish Bramley Apple buns are running neck and neck, while customers who longed for a confectionery option have really bought into our Salted Caramel & Chocolate bun. I’m one of them – I could eat a whole pack in one go!”

Working towards an event like Easter is nothing new for Mehdi. Brought up in France, he came to the UK immediately after graduation, before joining M&S as a Chilled Desserts Technologist in 2013 and taking responsibility for category events like Christmas, Pancake Day and Valentine’s Day.

Mehdi moved to Bakery in 2017, where he is a Food Technologist. So what does he like about M&S?

“Where do I start? M&S is a fantastic brand that I’m proud to represent. I get to work on innovative projects which means I’m always learning something new, which suits my geekiness and is important in helping me maintain my Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) accreditation. And I get to spend time in supplier factories and bakeries – it always amazes me how complex facilities operate to deliver safe, high-quality food, day after day.”

Mehdi also mentions the team spirit and how everyone has gone the extra mile to support him. “Go and meet your colleagues, in and out of your function. It’s the best way to learn about M&S and build your network,” is his advice for new joiners.

Mehdi’s proudest moment at M&S is beating thousands of entries to win The Grocer Food & Drink Award 2017 with the amazing Dessert Menu 2 Melting Chocolate Domes, and he helped raise £3,000 for charity with three colleagues through crowdfunding. So does he step away from food in his spare time?

“I’m a foodie who loves to travel and eat in new places. I’m the annoying guy who takes a snap of his food and posts it on Instagram before eating it. It really winds up my fiancée!” he laughs.

Inside M&S
22 March, 2018

The art of great customer service, according to Sue

Sue leads the Womenswear team at our Cheshunt store, ensuring they deliver exceptional service to customers and driving sales. As she explains, her career at M&S has covered a variety of different roles.

“I have been with M&S for 27 years, starting as a temporary seasonal advisor at Christmas in foods. I took on a permanent role and moved to the Customer Service Desk, where I worked for six years. Then I was promoted to Deputy Supervisor in Homewear, before moving into Womenswear, where I became a Section Manager. So, I like to think I’m a good example of how you can work your way up within the business.”

On a typical day, she walks the sales floor to see how her team are delivering great service. That involves leading by example and dealing with customers herself.

“I genuinely think ‘Customer First’ in every decision I make in-store. I think it gives a positive example to my team. One day recently, I got talking to a customer who was looking for blouses. She told me she lives in London, but makes the trip to Cheshunt every month because she loves the store environment and how welcoming the team are here. It’s always good to receive praise for the wonderful service we provide.”

She believes her leadership style ensures her team continues to provide this level of service. What does her approach involve? “I like to listen to their feedback, celebrate success and praise performance within the team. I think this really drives their performance and it’s the kind of open and honest relationship that makes them feel valued.”

As well as leading her team, Sue’s role as a Section Manager also involves meeting with other leaders in the store, for example to plan for upcoming promotions and events. “For something like our Summer Event, I will discuss our needs with the Commercial Manager and Visual Manager in advance. This involves walking the shop floor with them and planning any moves that need to take place, ready for the event. Then I need to plan with my customer assistants when and how we will deliver the launch.”

She says she wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. “I am really happy in my current role and at some stage I’d like to pursue other opportunities at my current level. I also love having my staff discount card. It’s a real benefit – although I need to keep an eye on what I’m spending!”

Inside M&S
16 March, 2018

ST PATRICK’S DAY – A DAY TO HELP OTHERS

If you want proper balance in your life, you’ll find it in Navan. The town is situated some 40 miles from Dublin city centre, and many commute into the capital every day, but the tranquillity of rolling hills can be found just five minutes away. The M&S store in Navan offers Food and Clothing & Home products plus a Café. It has a family feel, but even if the community is relatively small, everyone is big on one thing… celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

But it’s not just about having a good time as Lorna, Store Manager, explains: “All the M&S team will be wearing green over the weekend and raising funds for our local charity, Jigsaw, which provides vital support for young people with mental health issues. Our store will be a hive of excitement, with small children (and us big kids!) getting ready for the Saturday afternoon parade in the town.” The M&S team has ‘greened out’ the store décor, had T-shirts printed and arranged green takeaway cups for the Café – and it’s times like this that make Lorna proud to be Irish.

Lorna is relatively new to the store, but has already seen how the team supports others. “Last year, we refreshed and painted the local Jigsaw centre and the feedback from the charity team was amazing. I feel at home in Navan – and as Easter approaches, we’re the only store in Ireland that can say some of our Easter eggs are made just down the road!”

Not that Lorna is new to M&S. Back in 2001, she watched a documentary about the development of our Per Una brand and was hooked. “I couldn’t get over how passionate everyone was, and since M&S was a name I had grown up with, I felt lucky to get a glimpse of how everything works.”

Throughout a career in which she has moved from Section Manager to Commercial Manager roles, the M&S values of quality, innovation and trust – and the way we all share them – have shone through for Lorna.

“I love the challenges and successes that every day brings. It’s that feeling of all us working together towards a goal – and either celebrating or dusting ourselves off to start again.”

And Lorna’s biggest inspiration? “My team! They inspire me to be better every day, to strive for success and learn from any mistakes so we can be even better in the future.”

Inside M&S
9 March, 2018

Difficulty choosing mum a gift? Fear not, Sally is here

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and to Sally, it is always an exciting time. The celebration of mothers and motherhood goes back thousands of years and today people from across the globe still uphold these traditions. It’s important to show mums the love they deserve - but choosing the perfect gift can be a challenge. What’s more, anticipating what kind of gifts will be popular each year and making sure customers have plenty of options to choose from is no small-feat.

To Sally, M&S Buyer, Mother’s Day is always an exciting time. Sally’s career journey has definitely made her an expert at predicting what products people will be on the lookout for each year.

“I come from a Product Development background. Before I started at M&S, I worked across jewellery, accessories and bags. The places I worked at were supplying M&S, so I got to know the M&S team very well and became interested in the Buyer role,” Sally explains.

And what does it mean to be a Buyer at M&S?

“Being a Buyer is something else. It’s for the bold and the adventurous. You have to be reactive, quick on your feet and consistently push the boundaries in your ranges. What’s more, you have to know your trends, know your catwalks and understand your price ranges. You also have to be a team player - teamwork is essential across our function because we work alongside Press, Marketing, Visual Merchandising and others, to deliver the key messages and strategy each season.

"Jewellery peaks for Mother's Day and it's an amazing feeling, knowing the smiles your product will bring. This year we have looked at how we can highlight our amazing products so we have put beautiful display tables to showcase the perfect gifts to our customers. We have also introduced a new customisation range, a capsule collection of ‘Create Your Own’ jewellery. What this means is, you can choose from a necklace or bracelet and add one or more charms and initials to make a special personalised gift.

These are the kinds of ideas we spend a long time developing leading up to the day. The biggest reward is when your new ranges launch in store, and you start to see sales and customer reaction.”

From all of us at M&S, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

Inside M&S
9 March, 2018

Mother’s Day at M&S

Thanks to Frances’ family, our M&S stores have never been short of a wise and caring matriarch. In 1969, her mother joined our team, who was eventually followed by her big sister. And that’s not even mentioning all the aunts, nieces and cousins of hers that have helped us over the years. Then, in 1982, Frances got a Saturday job here to make some extra money while she was still at school.

“36 years later I’m pleased to say I’m still here!”

Frances is Food Section Manager in our Malone store, Belfast. And her daughters have gone on to follow in her footsteps. Her eldest, Sarah, works as a Section Manager elsewhere in the business, while her youngest, Clare, works alongside her mum as a Section Coordinator in Malone.

“I feel very proud of my girls and what they have achieved; it’s great to see them grow as individuals.”

With such a strong, loyal customer base in Malone, Frances reveals how she and her daughter try to make every moment special for them.

“I take pride in what we do – we always try to work as a team, which as a Simply Food store is crucial to our success. We are in a quite affluent area of Belfast, so our customers expect the best standards of presentation and service.”

Despite Belfast becoming a vibrant tourist attraction, Frances says all the warmth, friendliness and tremendous ‘craic’ has remained in the community. And that feel good factor will carry into stores on Mother’s Day.

“There are four sets of mothers with a son or daughter in my store alone – quite a lot from just 60 colleagues! We’re planning a special weekend treat for our in-store mums!”

And as well as all the fun, families and co-workers will spend time together giving something back to those in need.

“On Mothers’ Day weekend, we’re holding a special ‘bag pack’ in aid of our store charity, which is in memory of a colleague who sadly passed away last year.”

At M&S, there’s time for laughs – and maybe the odd tear – but ultimately it’s a place where you can build a career, do something that matters, and share special moments with people you care about. Frances says it all.

“I was able to enjoy seeing my children grow up at a point where I wanted to a progress within the business. If you’re prepared to work hard, the opportunity to learn and succeed is there!”

Inside M&S

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