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"M&S" redirects here. For other uses, see M&S (disambiguation).
Marks & Spencer
Type Public (LSE: MKS)
Industry Retailer
Founded Leeds, West Yorkshire,
England (1884 (1884))
Founder(s) Michael Marks
Thomas Spencer
Headquarters City of Westminster, London,
Number of locations 1010 stores (2010)
Area served Worldwide
Key people Robert Swannell
Marc Bolland
(Chief Executive)
Revenue increase £9.5 billion (2010)
Operating income increase £56.9 million (2010)
Total assets decrease £7.1 million (2010)
Employees 76,250 (2010)

Marks and Spencer plc (also known as M&S) is a British retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London, with over 700 stores in the United Kingdom and over 300 stores spread across more than 40 countries.. It specialises in the selling of clothing and luxury food products. M&S was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer.

In 1998 it became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1 billion, though a few years later it plunged into a crisis which lasted for several years. In November 2009, it was announced that Marc Bolland, formerly of Morrisons, would take over as chief executive from Stuart Rose in early 2010; Rose will remain with the company until mid-2011.

It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index

Corporate history

Marks & Spencer at Robinsons Mall, Manila, Philippines

The company was founded by a partnership between Michael Marks, a Litvak Jew from Slonim, Poland (now in Belarus), and Thomas Spencer, a cashier from Yorkshire. On his arrival in England, Marks worked for a company in Leeds, called Barran, which employed refugees (see Sir John Barran, 1st Baronet). In 1884 he met Isaac Dewhurst, the owner of a Leeds warehouse, which resulted in him opening his own stall on Kirkgate Market, in Leeds.

The next few years saw Michael Marks open market stalls in many locations around the North West of England. In 1894, Thomas Spencer invested in Marks’ activities and they opened their first store, in partnership, at 20, Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester.

Marks and Spencer, known colloquially as "Marks and Sparks", "Markies", or "M&S", made its reputation in the early 20th century on a policy of only selling British-made goods (a policy eventually discontinued in 2002). It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold clothes and food under the "St Michael" brand, that was introduced 1928). The St Michael honours Michael Marks. It also accepted the return of unwanted items, giving a full cash refund if the receipt was shown, no matter how long ago the product was purchased, which was unusual for the time. It adopted a 90-day returns policy in 2005 but on 12 April 2009 the refund policy changed once again to 35 days. This is still the most generous refund period on the British high street.

M and S staff raised £5,000 money to pay for a Spitfire fighter called The Marksman in 1941.

By 1950, virtually all goods were sold under the "St Michael" label. M&S lingerie, women’s clothes and girls’ school uniform were branded under the "St Margaret" label until the whole range of general merchandise became St Michael. Simon Marks, son of Michael Marks, died in 1964, after fifty-six years’ service. Israel Sieff took over as Chairman and in 1968, John Salisse became the company Director. A cautious international expansion began with the introduction of Asian food in 1974. M&S opened stores in continental Europe in 1975 and in Ireland four years later.

The company put its main emphasis on quality, including a 1957 stocking size measuring system. But for most of its history it also had a reputation for offering fair value for money. When this reputation began to waver, it encountered serious difficulties. Arguably, M&S has historically been an iconic retailer of ’British Quality Goods’.

The uncompromising attitude towards customer relations was summarized by the 1953 slogan: "The customer is always and completely right!".

Energy efficiency was improved by the addition of thermostatically controlled refrigerators in 1963.

M&S has sold Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings since 1958. In an effort to improve the quality of their Swiss rolls, they hired the food expert Nat Goldberg, who made a major improvement across their entire cake range, which had lost the public’s favour a few years earlier. As a later measure to improve food quality food labelling was improved and "sell by dates" were phased in between 1970 and 1972.

Smoking was banned from all M&S shops in 1959 because of the fire hazards it posed. It later became a permanent rule after concerns were raised by asthmatics about their health.

All international shops are operated under franchise, with the exception of those in the Republic of Ireland and Hong Kong which remain in company ownership.

The first M&S shop in central Asia was built in Kabul in the 1960s but was later shut down.

A Marks & Spencer store in Hong Kong

Look Behind the Label

In 2006 the Look Behind the Label marketing campaign was introduced. The aim of this campaign was to highlight to customers the various ethical and environmentally friendly aspects of the production and sourcing methods engaged in by M&S including: Fairtrade products, sustainable fishing and environmentally friendly textile dyes. All coffee and tea sold in M&S stores is now Fairtrade. in addition the company offers clothing lines made from Fairtrade Cotton in selected departments.

At Christmas the company introduces a range of food products to support the housing charity Shelter predominantly in the food to go range including a range of seasonal Christmas sandwiches.

M&S store on Birmingham High Street

On 15 January 2007, M&S launched an initiative, known as "Plan A", to dramatically increase the environmental sustainability of the business within 5 years and expected to cost £200 million.

The plan covers "100 commitments over 5 years to address the key social and environmental challenges facing M&S today and in the future" with the tag-line "Because there is no Plan B". The commitments span five themes: climate change, waste, sustainable raw materials, ’fair partnership’ and health, with the aim that, by 2012, it will:

  • Become carbon neutral
  • Send no waste to landfill
  • Extend sustainable sourcing
  • Help improve the lives of people in their supply chain
  • Help customers and employees live a healthier life-style

Despite an 18% fall in the share price in January 2008, following publication of their latest trading statement, the company confirmed that they would be continuing with the plan, saying that there were ’compelling commercial Ã¢â‚¬â€ as well as moral Ã¢â‚¬â€ reasons to do so’.

The now iconic brown, reusable, hessian bag was first introduced in 2007 as an early part of this plan. It is hoped that this will reduce the use of plastic carrier bags over the next few years.

May 2008 saw the introduction of the 5p carrier bag scheme at M&S stores, with customers now paying 5p per standard sized vest carrier bag for food purchases. This implementation was brought about through the Plan A scheme, to try to discourage use of the traditional plastic bag. All profits from the sale of food bags go to Groundwork UK.

In becoming carbon neutral the company has committed to only use carbon offsetting as a last resort, restricted to cases "where it is required by government or where the technology for green air or road transport will not be available for the foreseeable future".

As of August 2008, M&S had three wind turbines in operation, one at Methlick and two near Strichen, generating enough power to supply three stores via the National Grid. In April 2009 the company began purchasing 2.6 TWh of renewable energy (wind and hydroelectric) from Npower, enough to power all Marks & Spencer stores and offices in England and Wales.

Company chairman Sir Stuart Rose is personally committed to further promoting green issues and the recycling of plastic bottles. He has also pledged to reduce non-glass wastage by 25% and plastic carrier bag usage by 33% in the near future.

 Charity work

M&S has sold a wide range of charitable women’s clothes for Breakthrough Breast Cancer for many years and the Ashbourne store collected a total of £2,000 for a local Derbyshire hospital’s new ECG machine in 2010.. Other charities are also represented at individual stores from time to time.


 Business Involvement Group (BIG)

The Business Involvement Group represents colleagues and is consulted regarding changes to employment terms and conditions. In practice it has been labelled as ineffective. BIG has been directly blamed for its involvement in the erosion of individual terms and conditions of employment which were once the envy of other retail workers. BIG has been referred to as the instrument of delivering management decisions and a weak voiceless representative of the employees.

Marks & Spencer has been criticised by pro-Palestinian and left wing groups over its past support for Zionism and for fruit trading with the state of Israel, a cause which it had promoted since its inception. For instance, prior to Israel’s creation, various senior figures in the company advocated Zionist ideas, with Israel Sieff, the group’s chairman, advocating mass deportation in 1941 by stating that in order to found a Zionist state, "large sections of the Arab population of Palestine should be transplanted to Iraq and other Middle Eastern states." This moral support continued until the 1980s. In his 1990 memoir, M&S’ former chairman, Marcus Sieff (who was chairman from 1974 until 1984), described "aiding the economic development of Israel as one of its fundamental objectives." This has led to various pressure groups calling for boycotts of M&S goods, and demonstrations to be held outside of M&S shops. In one case, a Brighton based shop was vandalised with pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist graffiti.

Since that time, the company has changed, and instead states a policy that ’does not support any countries, nations, states, governments, political parties or religious bodies’.

Currently M&S’ involvement with Israel is confined to trade as are several other large UK retailers, all of High profile media campaigns

M&S has always run newspaper and/or Magazine ads since the early 1950s, but the introduction of some famous stars such as Twiggy and David Jason in various TV ads has helped raise the company’s profile. Twiggy first appeared in 1967, returning later in 1995 and 2005. Anne Grierson first featured in adverts during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s. In later years, Erin O’Connor, Myleene Klass, Tanja Nadjila, Peter Kay, David Beckham, Antonio Banderas, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Tatjana Patitz, Lisa Snowdon, Dannii Minogue, VV Brown and Carmen Kass have also featured in a few ads, along with many others.

John Sergeant, David Jason and Joanna Lumley have either appeared in or voiced over adverts since 2008.

The new look has been instrumental in the company’s recent resurgence, particularly with the success of a new clothing campaign featuring the celebrated model, Twiggy, and younger models associated with the bohemian styles of 2005-6, and the new TV ad campaign for its food range. These adverts have the tag-line This is not just food, this is M&S food and feature slow motion, close-up footage of various food products, described in a sultry voiceover by Dervla Kirwan, to an enticing instrumental song Ã¢â‚¬â€ most notably Fleetwood Mac’s "Albatross" as well as Santana’s "Samba Pa Ti", Groove Armada’s "At the River" or Spandau Ballet’s "True". These adverts have been referred to by both fans and critics as being food porn, with a number of other companies copying the idea, such as Aldi and, most recently, Waitrose.

The 2009 TV advertising campaign drew complaints, leading to national press coverage, regarding sexism.which is regulated by the EU
New store format

New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, Hong Kong

A new store format designed by Urban Salon Architects has won much praise and is in the process of being rolled out across all stores, with a majority of stores being completed by the end of 2008.

 Brighter look

The full new look makeover is a reworking of store design, including the gutting of old stores, and installation of a brighter, more spacious, modern and contemporary design, replacing carpets and laminate floors with white tile throughout (black tile in Foods) thus opening the floor instead of having pathways, having new contemporary white mannequins in new designs and poses, new displays and kit such as new design clothing rails, avant garde product stands (formerly known as "Lutons"), display and product walls, window display styles, larger fitting rooms, glass walls, till points, and general total updating of decals, signage, equipment (including smaller CCTV dome cameras), and lighting.

A typical example of an un-modernised ’core’ M&S store, located in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

Several of the old ’Luton’ format stores have received what is known internally as a ’Light Touch’ re-fit, which involves bringing the store up-to-date with new floors, till points, mannequins and signage (the actual work differs per store) but not to the extent of a full refurbishment, as mentioned above. This occurs in stores that are subject to re-development or re-location
Product line history

St Michael was a brand, that was owned and used by Marks & Spencer from 1928 until 2000.

The brand was introduced by Simon Marks in 1928, after his father and co-founder of Marks & Spencer, Michael Marks. By 1950, virtually all goods were sold under the St Michael brand. M&S lingerie, women’s clothing and girls’ uniform were branded under the St Margaret brand, until the whole range of general merchandise became St Michael.

Marks & Spencer were selling clothes under the St Margaret and St Michael label by the mid-1950s and launched their school uniforms in the early 1950s. The synthetic fibre Tricell was first used in 1957 and lasted until the 1970s. and another synthetic fibre called Coutelle was first launched, nationally, by Marks & Spencer during 1960 and also lasted well in to the 1970s. Machine washable wool first appeared in 1972 and Lycra hosiery first came in during 1986.

M&S launched their own brands of domestic products, such as washing powder and aluminium foil in 1972, under the brand name of ’House-care’.

In 2000, Marks & Spencer dropped the St Michael brand, and replacing it with the Marks & Spencer brand. The St Michael name was subsequently adopted as a ’quality guarantee’ and appeared as the St Michael Quality Promise on the back of food products, on the side of delivery vehicles and on in-store ordering receipts. The St Michael Quality Promise was phased out a few years ago Marks & Spencer.

Marks & Spencer were selling clothes under the St Margaret and St Michael label by the mid-1950s and launched their school uniforms in the early 1950s, but would be scrapped in the year 2000 as part of the corporate modernisation plan, when brands such as Autograph were launched.

M&S’s relatively successful interior design ’Home’ brand was launched in 2005 and featured products like vases, furniture and beds.

Boil-in-the-bag and sachet meals were first pioneered by M&S in 1972 and the award winning Gastropub food range was launched in 2004. The ’Melting middle chocolate pudding’ campaign of 2005 has led to a remarkable 3,000% rise in chocolate pudding sales, something that has not recurred since. The Percy Pigs sweets were first created in 1995 and the billionth "Percy Pig" sweet was sold by the October of 2007.

Current M & S product lines

A Gastropub ready meal
Marks & Spencer Percy Pigs
  • Womenswear
  • Summer classics
  • Classic collection
  • Seasonal classics
  • Beachwear
  • Sportswear
  • The Indigo collection
  • Portfolio
  • Per Una
  • Buy me now or lose me for ever- limited editions: their discounted product line.
  • Breakthrough Breast Cancer: M&S markets charitable clothes for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
  • Lingerie and hosiery
  • Shoes
  • Childrenswear
  • Babywear
  • Percy Pig and Colin Caterpillar sweets
  • Menswear
  • Perfect seasonal clothes
  • Cosmetics and Perfumes
  • Homeware
  • Technology
  • Food and drink
  • ’Gastropub’ are ready meals inspired by pub cuisine for home cooking It got a ’Golden pub-meal commendation’ in 2005. ’Food to go’ was a grab bag or packed lunch ready cooked meal that enveloped out of the popular food range in early 2010.
  • Alcohol: M&S has an extensive wine and beer range, which was first started in 1973. In 2006 and 2007, M&S entered over a hundred of its own wines into two wine competitions, The Decanter World Wine Awards and The International Wine Challenge. Both years, almost every wine won an award, ranging from the 2005 Secano Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile (Best Pinot Noir in the world for under £10) to the Rosada Cava (Commended).
  • Gift shop/Christmas gift shop
  • M&S Money - Marks and Spencer Financial Services
  • M&S Energy - Electricity & Gas (in partnership with Scottish & Southern) and Home Insulation
  • The company also began to sell other branded goods like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in November 2008. It may discontinue its own branded food in 2011 due to poor turnover beyond the ’Food to go’ and ’Gastropub’ lines.

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