Marks & Spencer

"M&S" redirects here. This article is about the department store. For other uses, see M&S (disambiguation).
Marks & Spencer plc
Public limited company
Traded as LSE: MKS
Industry Retail
Founded 1884 (1884)
Leeds, United Kingdom
Founder Sir Michael Marks
Thomas Spencer
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served
Key people
Revenue £10.300 billion (2015)[1]
£762.5 million (2015)[1]
Profit £481.7 million (2015)[1]
Number of employees
83,069 (2015)[2]

Marks and Spencer plc (also known as M&S) is a major British multinational retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

It specialises in the selling of clothing, home products and luxury food products. M&S was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer in Leeds. The company also began to sell branded goods like Kellogg's Corn Flakes in November 2008.[3]

In 1998, the company became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1 billion,[4] although subsequently it went into a sudden slump, which took the company, its shareholders, who included hundreds of thousands of small investors, and nearly all retail analysts and business journalists, by surprise. In November 2009, it was announced that Marc Bolland, formerly of Morrisons,[5] would take over as chief executive from executive chairman Stuart Rose in early 2010; Rose remained in the role of non-executive chairman until he was replaced by Robert Swannell in January 2011.[6][7]

M&S have 914 stores throughout the UK, as well as many international stores; 52 stores in India, 48 stores in Turkey, 37 in Russia, 27 in Greece, 17 in Ireland, 14 in France, 11 in Poland, 6 in Hungary and Finland and 5 in Spain.

In recent years its clothing sales have fallen whilst food sales have increased after the axing of "St. Michael's" naming for their own brand.



Marks and Spencer on Briggate not far from their original branch in Leeds.

The company was founded by a partnership between Michael Marks, a Polish Jew[8][9][10] from Słonim (Marks was born into a Polish-Jewish family, a Polish refugee living in the Russian Empire, now in Belarus), and Thomas Spencer, a cashier from the English market town of Skipton in North Yorkshire.[11] 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 Jowitt Dewhirst while looking for work. Dewhirst lent Marks £5 which he used to establish his Penny Bazaar on Kirkgate Market, in Leeds.[11] Dewhirst also taught him a little English. Dewhirst's cashier was Tom Spencer, a bookkeeper, whose second wife, Agnes, helped improve Marks' English. In 1894, when Marks acquired a permanent stall in Leeds' covered market, he invited Spencer to become his partner.

In 1901 Marks moved to the Birkenhead open market where he amalgamated with Spencer. The pair were allocated stall numbers 11 & 12 in the centre aisle in 1903, and there they opened the famous Penny Bazaar. The company left Birkenhead Market on 24 February 1923.[12]

The next few years saw Michael Marks and Tom Spencer open market stalls in many locations around the North West of England and move the original Leeds Penny Bazaar to 20, Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester.[11][13]

Domestic growth

Representation of historic store from the 1930s, Bekonscot model village, UK

Marks and Spencer, known colloquially as "Marks and Sparks",[14] or "M&S", made its reputation in the early 20th century with a policy of only selling British-made goods (it started to back down from this policy in the 1990s.[15]) It entered into long-term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold clothes and food under the "St Michael" brand, which was introduced in 1928. The brand 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.[10]

M&S staff raised £5,000 to pay for a Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft called The Marksman in 1941.[10]

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, the son-in-law of Michael Marks, 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.[10]

The company put its main emphasis on quality, including a 1957 stocking size measuring system.[10] 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'.[10]

The uncompromising attitude towards customer relations was summarised by the 1953 slogan: "The customer is always and completely right!"[10]

Energy efficiency was improved by the addition of thermostatically controlled refrigerators in 1963.[10]

M&S began selling Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings in 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.[10]

Smoking was banned from all M&S shops in 1959 because of the fire hazards it posed.[10] It later became a permanent rule after concerns were raised by asthmatics about their health.

In 1972, Marcus Sieff became Chairman, remaining in place until 1984, and emphasising the importance of good staff relations to the tradition of the store, while extending staff benefits to areas such as restaurants and chiropody.[16]

International expansion

A Marks & Spencer store in Central, Hong Kong.
A Marks & Spencer store in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

M&S expanded into Canada in 1973, and at one point had forty seven stores across Canada. Despite various efforts to improve its image, the chain was never able to move beyond its reputation there as a stodgy retailer, one that catered primarily to senior citizens and expatriate Britons. The shops in Canada were smaller than British outlets, and did not carry the same selection. In the late 1990s, further efforts were made to modernise them and also expand the customer base. Unprofitable locations were closed. Nonetheless, the Canadian operations continued to lose money, and the last 38 shops in Canada were closed in 1999.[17]

Expansion into France began with shops opening in Paris at Boulevard Haussmann and Lyon in 1975, followed by a second Paris shop at Rosny 2 in 1977. Further expansion into other French and Belgian cities followed into the 1980s. Although the Paris shops remained popular and profitable, the Western European operation as a whole did not fare as well and eighteen shops were sold in 2001.[18] However, in April 2011, M&S changed directions again with an announcement to reopen a store that will not only sell clothing but food as well. In addition the group will also open several food outlets throughout the French capital. The first branch opened on 24 November 2011 at the Champs-Élysées in a ceremony attended by company CEO Marc Bolland, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Westmacott.[19] The Daily Mail reported that 1,000 customers queued outside for over 2 hours at the opening of the 1,400 m2 (15,000 sq ft) store.[19]

In 1988, the company acquired Brooks Brothers, an American clothing company[20] and Kings Super Markets, a US food chain.[21]

In 2016 M&S expanded to sell through European marketplace Zalando on their German, French, Dutch, Belgian and Austrian sites with a range of kidswear and lingerie.[22]

Financial decline

M&S shop in Inverness in 1998

M&S's profits peaked in the financial year 1997/1998.[4] At the time it was seen as a continuing success story, but with hindsight it is considered that during Sir Richard Greenbury's tenure as head of the company, profit margins were pushed to untenable levels, and the loyalty of its customers was seriously eroded. The rising cost of using British suppliers was also a burden, as rival retailers increasingly imported their goods from low-cost countries, but M&S's belated switch to overseas suppliers undermined a core part of its appeal to the public. Another factor was the company's refusal until 2001 to accept any credit cards except its own chargecard.[23]

These factors combined to plunge M&S into a sudden slump, which took the company, its shareholders, who included hundreds of thousands of small investors, and nearly all retail analysts and business journalists, by surprise. The company's share price fell by more than two thirds, and its profits fell from more than a billion pounds in 1997 and 1998 to £145 million in the year ended 31 March 2001.[24]

Marks & Spencer launched an online shopping service in 1999.[25]

In 2001, with changes in its business focus such as accepting credit cards, the introduction of the "Per Una" clothing range designed by George Davies, and a redesign of its underlying business model, profits recovered somewhat and M&S recovered some of its market share, but it was soon evident that problems remained.

In 2004, M&S was in the throes of an attempted takeover by Arcadia Group and BHS boss, Philip Green.[26] On 12 July a recovery plan was announced which would involve selling off its financial services business M&S Money to HSBC Bank plc, buying control of the Per Una range, closing the Gateshead Lifestore and stopping the expansion of its Simply Food line of shops. Philip Green withdrew his takeover bid after failing to get sufficient backing from shareholders.[26][27]

In February 2007, M&S announced the opening of the world's largest M&S shop outside the UK at Dubai Festival City.[28] On 2 October 2008, M&S opened its first mainland China shop in Shanghai. Problems with the supply chain for the first few months of opening led Stuart Rose, M&S chairman, to describe failures in "basic shopkeeping".[29]


Twenty-two unprofitable and minor food stores, such as the ones at Ripon and Balham, were closed in early 2009 as part of a cost cutting measure.[10] In August 2010, it was confirmed that the Grantham branch of M&S would close, along with two other Lincolnshire branches in Skegness and Scunthorpe due to low sales in these older format stores. The closures were met with protests from the local communities and petitions were signed in support of retaining the stores, although they went ahead.[30]

The Retail Knowledge Bank conducted an audit of the company's brands in August 2010, and revealed that sales of womenswear were at a 10-year low. The audit covered both the Limited Collection, Autograph, Autograph Weekend, Classic Collection, Per Una, Portfolio and Indigo.[31][32] Draper magazine claimed that Per Una was the only clothing brand not at risk of being axed while Marc Bolland considered which brands would be retained.[33] Per Una was planned to stay due to its successful and distinctive flair, but Portfolio and Indigo were planned to go due to poor sales.[31][32] Both the Limited Collection, Autograph, Autograph Weekend, Classic Collection brands were being considered for the cull during mid-2010, but were later given a reprieve.[34]

On 9 November 2010, chief executive Marc Bolland revealed plans to strengthen the company’s overall brand image and targeting sales of between £800m and £1bn for which company will increase capital expenditure to £850m to £900m over the next three years to fund the plans.[35] The plan also involved the discontinuation of its 'Portfolio' fashion brand and the sale of electrical products. The company also announced a new marketing strapline, 'Only at M&S', and that it would revamp its website.[36]

Recent developments

Bolland ordered a new store design in May 2011, and it was announced that the company would spend around £600 million between 2011 and 2014 on its UK stores, involving the launch of a range of different store formats based on the age, affluence and demographics of people in those areas. The design also included the trial of a new in-store "navigation scheme", which followed research showing that shoppers found M&S store layouts confusing and "difficult to shop [in]". It also confirmed that the amount of money-off promotions and deals offered would be increased, and that it would replace the Marks & Spencer label on clothing with "M&S Woman" and "M&S Man".[37]

By 2013, M&S's clothing division had an 11% market share in the UK.[38][39][40]

In May 2013 saw the launch of the Best of British range as well as the overhaul of Per Una and Indigo.[41] Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne became the new marketing director, succeeding Steven Sharp in July. Mark Bolland also vowed to bring "quality and style back" [39][40] M&S also stated it intended to increase its number of UK suppliers from the 20 it had at the time.[41]

In November 2013, it was revealed that Bill Adderley, founder of homeware chain Dunelm Group, had amassed a £250m stake in M&S over the past 18 months. This disclosure was made as stock market rules mean that any holding over 3 per cent share must be made public.[42]

On 7 January 2016 it was announced that Marc Bolland, who has been CEO since 2010 would step down on 2 April 2016, and be replaced by Steve Rowe, head of clothing, and previously head of the food business.[43]

2015 / 2016 store cull

Stores identified for closure in July 2015 included Woolwich, Walsall, Erdington, Aldershot (which was there since 1922), Pontypridd in Wales, Hounslow in west London, and Royal Quays in North Shields, the three full-line stores in Stevenage, Wood Green in north London, and The Fort shopping park in Castle Bromwich and the Simply Food in Castle Bromwich.[44][44][45][46][46] The Lewisham store also lost a floor.[44][44][45][46][46] The closures in 2015 also included three traditional food and clothing shops, one Simply Food store and four Outlet stores that sell end-of-season clothing.[44] Some 430 workers were affected by the closures.[44] The cull cost up to £200m to implement; the closure included loss-making stores in European markets such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as outposts in China.[44][44][45][46][46]

Corporate affairs

Head office locations

The headquarters of M&S was for a hundred years at Michael House, 55 Baker Street, London. In 2004 the company moved to a new headquarters designed by mossessian & partners at Waterside House in the new Paddington Basin, London.[47]

As well as the main offices in London, there are a number of other head office sites across the UK; Stockley Park (IT Services), Salford Quays and Spinningfields, Greater Manchester (Marks & Spencer Shared Services Ltd. which provides human resources, and finance administration),[48][49] Chester (HSBC's M&S Money[50] and Retail Customer Services), and Draycott (per una).

The company has overseas sourcing offices in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, China, Italy, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.[51]

Financial performance

M&S is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

Until 1999 M&S's financial year ended on 31 March. Since then, the company has changed to reporting for 52 or 53-week periods, ending on variable dates.

Year ended Turnover (£ M) Profit before tax (£ M) Net profit (£ M) Basic eps (p)
28 March 2015 10,311.4 600.0 481.7 29.7
29 March 2014 10,309.7 580.4 506.0 32.5
30 March 2013 10,026.8 564.3 458.0 29.2
31 March 2012 9,934.3 658.0 489.6 32.5
2 April 2011 9,740.3 780.6 598.6 38.8
3 April 2010 9,536.6 702.7 523.0 33.5
28 March 2009 9,062.1 706.2 506.8 32.3
29 March 2008 9,022.0 1,129.1 821.0 49.2
31 March 2007 8,588.1 936.7 659.9 39.1
1 April 2006 7,797.7 745.7 520.6 36.4
2 April 2005 7,490.5 505.1 355.0 29.1
3 April 2004 8,301.5 781.6 452.3 24.2
29 March 2003 8,019.1 677.5 480.5 20.7
30 March 2002 8,135.4 335.9 153.0 5.4
31 March 2001 8,075.7 145.5 2.8 0.0
1 April 2000 8,195.5 417.5 258.7 9.0
31 March 1999 8,224.0 546.1 372.1 13.0
31 March 1998 8,243.3 1,155.0 815.9 28.6
31 March 1997 7,841.9 1,129.1 746.6 26.7
31 March 1996 7,233.7 965.8 652.6 455.8

While underlying sales of food rose 1.7%, sales of general merchandise - which includes clothing - fell 4.1% between May 2012 and May 2013. Chief executive Marc Bolland described the current market as "challenging".[38]

Social and environmental policy

"Look Behind the Label"

In 2006, the Look Behind the Label marketing campaign was introduced.[52] 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.[53] In addition, the company offers clothing lines made from Fairtrade cotton in selected departments.[54]

At Christmas, the company introduces a range of food products to support the housing charity Shelter.[55]

"Plan A"

M&S store on Birmingham High Street

On 15 January 2007, M&S launched an initiative, known as "Plan A",[56] to dramatically increase the environmental sustainability of the business within 5 years and expected to cost £200 million.[57]

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,[56] with the aim that, by 2012, it will:[58]

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 — as well as moral — reasons to do so'.[59]

M&S introduced a reusable hessian bag in 2007 as part of the plan, aiming to reduce the number of plastic bags used within five years. This was followed in May 2008 by the introduction of a 5p charge for standard sized carrier bags used for food purchases.[56][60] All profits from the sale of food bags originally went to the charity Groundwork UK;[61] M&S launched the "Forever Fish" campaign in June 2011 and switched funding to that campaign to promote protection of marine wildlife in the UK.[62]

In becoming carbon neutral the company has committed to only use carbon offsetting as a last resort,[63] 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".[64]

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.[65] 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.[66]

In 2012 the company was awarded European Business Award for the Environment (Management category) by the European Union for Plan A.[67]

Charity work

M&S has sold a wide range of charitable women's clothes for Breakthrough Breast Cancer[68] for many years and the Ashbourne store collected a total of £2,000 for a local Derbyshire hospital's new ECG machine in 2010.[69] In 2011 M&S launch Oxfam's clothes recycling initiative.[70]

On 29 July 2015, the company organised their first 'Spark Something Good' event as part of the 'Plan A' initiative. Hundreds of volunteers worked for "...24 hours on 24 projects" at a variety of charities across the UK.[71]

Senior management

The following have served as the Chairman of the company since it was founded:


UK and Ireland

M&S White City in Westfield London is one of the company's largest stores.

The largest shop, at Marble Arch, London on Oxford Street, which has around 16,000 square metres (170,000 sq ft) of shop floor. The second largest is in Cheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port, which is the largest outside London.[73] The third largest shop is at the Gemini Retail Park in Warrington. In 1999 M&S opened its shop in Manchester's Exchange Square, which was destroyed in the 1996 Manchester bombing and rebuilt. At re-opening, it was the largest M&S shop with 23,000 m2 (250,000 sq ft) of retail space, but half was subsequently sold to Selfridges, the company's second site in Manchester. The smallest branch is an outlet located in the Grainger Market in Newcastle upon Tyne.[74]

M&S has opened a number of stores at out of town locations since the trend to build shopping centres away from town centres became popular in the 1980s. The first was at the MetroCentre, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, which opened in 1986. Another notable example is the store at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre at Brierley Hill, West Midlands. This store opened on 23 October 1990 shortly after the closure of stores in the nearby town centres of Dudley and West Bromwich; the Merry Hill store was not originally intended to replace these two town centre stores, but both the Dudley and West Bromwich stores had experienced a downturn in trade as the opening of the Merry Hill store loomed, and both stores were closed on 25 August 1990.[75]

Before Christmas 2006, twenty-two M&S shops were open for 24-hour trading including the recently opened new retail park stores at Bolton Middlebrook and at the Abbey Centre, Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.[76][77]

The company's website has received criticism for having its prices in Pound sterling and not in euro, and for providing a search for its Irish stores through a "UK Store Finder".[78] The Irish Times pointed out that M&S failed to explain why the company is in a position to deliver goods ordered from its website to Brazil, Argentina, Iraq and Afghanistan but not to Ireland. M&S did not comment.[79]


A Marks & Spencer branch in Athens

The company reopened its store in Paris on 24 November 2011, following the launch of a new French website on 11 October 2011.[80] In the Philippines there are 18 M&S shops, the largest of which is located in Greenbelt Mall. A new store opened on 17 April 2013 in Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, Netherlands, more than 10 years after closure of the previous store. On 17 September 2013 the British ambassador to the Netherlands, Sir Geoffrey Adams, opened the first Dutch Marks & Spencer Food pilot store at a BP petrol station in Bijleveld beside the A12 motorway.[81][82] There are over 300 stores in some 40 overseas locations.[83]

On 11 November 2013, Marks & Spencer announced "that it is set to have about 80 stores open in the region by 2016 as part of its strategy to become a leading international, multichannel retailer" with partner Reliance Retail.[84] It opened a flagship store in Bandra in Mumbai.[84] M&S sales of lingerie accounts for more than a fifth of the sales in the Indian market, with total lingerie sales increasing by a third during the last six months of 2013.[84] In May 2014 Marks & Spencer announced that their intention was now to open 100 stores in the country by 2016.[85]

In the Netherlands, as of 2015, M&S have a supermarket in the expensive Kalverstraat shopping street in Amsterdam, as well as a larger store including clothing in The Hague. A number of BP gas stations in the Western area of the Netherlands include M&S convenience food stores.[86] In 2016, M&S is due to open a much larger store in Amsterdam, with a direct underground link to a new metro station.[87]

Number of Marks & Spencer stores, as of 14 January 2016.[88]





Store formats

Core shops

A typical example of an un-modernised 'core' M&S store, located in Kirkcaldy, Fife. However, as of 2012 the store has now been fully refurbished with the so-called "Light Touch" re-fit.

M&S core shops typically feature a selection of the company's clothing ranges and an M&S food hall. The range of clothing sold and the space given to it depends on the location and customer demographic (an example would be that some London shops do not stock the Classic Collection, but stock Limited Collection and a full Autograph range). Most core shops feature a Food hall.

New store format

A new store format designed by Urban Salon Architects was introduced in 2009.[89]

M&S Foodhall

An M&S Food Hall in the Sutton, London branch

All the St Michael Food hall supermarkets were renamed M&S Food hall when Marks & Spencer dropped the St Michael brand in 2000. Each M&S Foodhall sells groceries, which are all under the Marks & Spencer brand. However, in 2009 the company began selling a limited range of other brands, such as Coca-Cola and Stella Artois, without reducing the number of M&S goods they sold. This marked the first time in its 125-year history that Marks & Spencer had sold any brands other than its own.[90]

M&S introduced self check-out tills in the food-halls of a small number of trial stores in 2002. Self check-out was implemented in the general merchandise sections in three trial stores in 2006.[91]


Many large shops, such as Lisburn Sprucefield, Westfield, White City, Cribbs Causeway and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, also offer other hospitality outlets, such as a modern Deli Bar (champagne, canapés, seafood), Restaurant (table service—the first of which was opened in Newcastle) M&S Kitchen (traditional home cooking & lunches) or Hot Food To Go (burgers, chips, soups). Many of these outlets are run in conjunction with Compass Group under franchise arrangements.[92]

Home stores

In 2007, M&S announced that new, dedicated shops for home furnishings were to be launched. Shops have now been opened in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Lisburn Sprucefield in Northern Ireland[93] and in the Barton Square section of The Trafford Centre, Manchester.[94]

Outlet stores

As of 2010, M&S have 50 outlet stores and growth expansion plans for future.[95] The Outlet division offers M&S products with the majority of them discounting at least 30% from the original selling price.[96] The first of these stores opened at Ashford in Kent in 2000. Many of the Outlet shops are in locations such as retail parks and outlet centres, though some, including the shop in Woolwich, South London[97] and Newton Abbot, Devon were previously main M&S shops which converted to the Outlet format. Meadow Bank Outlet Store in Edinburgh became the model for all the Marks and Spencer Outlet shop in the early months of 2010. There are now also stores which combine a mainline M&S store and an Outlet store to create a store which offers both the main current full-price M&S ranges and the discounted Outlet ranges: one such store is at the Lewisham Shopping Centre, where the previously closed upper level of the M&S store was reopened in January 2009 as an Outlet format sub-store;[98]

M&S Simply Food

M&S Simply Food in Banstead, Surrey
An M&S Food to Go store in Sutton station, Sutton, London

M&S launched a convenience format, branded Simply Food in 2001, with the first stores opening in Twickenham and Surbiton. The stores predominantly sell food but also carry a small selection of general merchandise.[99]

A number of these are run under franchise agreements:

Orders from M&S accounted for more than half of Uniq's food product supplies to UK retailers in 2010 after several years service as a major M&S food product supplier.[103]

In 2011 it was noted that M&S were operating express pricing; i.e., charging more in their Simply Food branches than in regular branches. A spokesperson stated that "prices are a little higher than at our high street stores but this reflects the fact that these stores are open longer and are highly convenient for customers on the move".[104]

Online services

Products could be ordered online since the mid-2000s, in response to Tesco launching their pioneering home shopping delivery service in the early 2000s. Both Tesco, M&S and others are expanding rapidly into this new niche market. The online flower service was accused of unfair trading and using Google to piggy-back advertise on online searches aimed at Interflora online in 2010.[105]

The John Lewis shopping chain beat M&S to the title of the UK's best high-street website by late 2010.[106]

As of May 2013, the Republic of Ireland now handles more than 50% of online trade.[38][39][40]

Product line history

Marks & Spencer Percy Pigs

The company's ranges include clothing for men, woman and children, as well as home products and food. Within these ranges, M&S use a number of own brands, such as those used within its womenswear division, including Indigo Collection Junior, Indigo Collection and Portfolio. Indigo Collection is aimed at women over 30s, while Portfolio is aimed at those aged over 45. By 2010, M&S had 10 sub-brands within womenswear and 6 sub-brands within menswear, following a reduction in brands.[33]

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 early 2000s as part of the corporate modernisation plan.[10]

Within Marks & Spencer's food ranges, it first pioneered boil-in-the-bag and sachet meals in 1972. The company also sells main meals, lunches, sweets and other savoury items. It launched its "Percy Pigs" sweets in 1995,[107] and the billionth "Percy Pig" sweet was sold by October 2007.[10] M&S also has an extensive wine and beer range,[108] which was first started in 1973.[10] 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).[109]

M&S's relatively successful interior design 'Home' brand was launched in 2005 and featured products like vases, furniture and beds.[10]

The children's online only 'Living the Dream' range of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen memorabilia and merchandise was launched in September 2009.[110][111] Merchandise also relating to fellow racing driver Jenson Button was added to the range during April 2010.[112]

M&S launched its "Plus Fit" range for overweight children in selected stores in July 2010. It has proven to be a popular line.[113]

Per Una

Per Una's logo, three hearts

"Per Una" was launched on 28 September 2001 as a joint venture between M&S and Next founder George Davies with the contribution of Julie Strang. The Per Una brand has been a major success for the company,[114] and in October 2004, M&S bought the brand in a £125 million, two-year service contract with George Davies.[115] Mr Davies was to stay on for at least two years to run the company, with 12 months notice required if he wished to leave.[114][115]

Old labels

The "St Michael" brand was introduced by Simon Marks in 1928 in honour of 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.[10] The synthetic fibre Tricell was first used in 1957 and lasted until the 1970s.[10] and another synthetic fibre called Courtelle was first launched, nationally, by Marks & Spencer during 1960 and also lasted well into the 1970s.[10] Machine washable wool first appeared in 1972 and Lycra hosiery first came in during 1986.[10]

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'.[10] The 1996–1997 'Orient Express Tagged' brand was the first of numerous new brands, most of which were in feminine and children's clothes. The 'Orient Express Tagged' brand was part of the inspiration behind the 'Portfolio' brand.[10] The men's Autograph brand was then launched in 2000[10] and continues to this day.[116]

In 2004, Sir Stuart Rose axed a number of brands including the menswear brand "SP Clothing", the "View From" sportswear range, the David Beckham children's range "DB07" and several food lines as he thought the company's stock inventory management had become 'too complicated'.[31][32][117] A version of Per Una aimed at teenagers, "Per Una Due", was also discontinued, despite having launched earlier in the year, due to poor sales.[31][32][118]

The company also began to sell branded goods like Kellogg's Corn Flakes in November 2008.[3] Following a review by Marc Bolland in 2011, M&S confirmed it would begin to reduce the number of branded items on sale, instead offering only those that it did not have an M&S alternative for.[119]


The older logo, used from 2000 to 2007

During the height of the company's troubles at the beginning of the 21st century, the St Michael brand used as the selling label for all M&S products was discontinued in favour of Marks & Spencer and a new logo in the Optima typeface was introduced and began to appear in place of St Michael on product packaging. The same logo was also applied to store fascias and carrier bags. 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. This has since been phased out, although receipts for made-to-order furniture still feature this 'seal of approval' on the bottom.

Your M&S

Your M&S promotional logo 2004–2014.

When Steve Sharp joined as marketing director in 2004, after being hired by new Chief Executive Sir Stuart Rose, he introduced a new promotional brand under the Your M&S banner, with a corresponding logo.[120]

High-profile media campaigns

Logo 2007-2015

M&S has always run newspaper and/or Magazine ads since the early 1950s, but the introduction of some famous stars such as Twiggy[121][122] 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[10] first featured in adverts during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s. In later years, Erin O'Connor,[121] Myleene Klass,[121] Tanja Nadjila, Peter Kay, David Beckham,[10] Antonio Banderas,[10] Claudia Schiffer,[10] Helena Christensen,[10] Tatjana Patitz,[10] Lisa Snowdon, Dannii Minogue, V V Brown and Carmen Kass have also featured in a few ads, along with many others.[10] John Sergeant, David Jason and Joanna Lumley have either appeared in or voiced over adverts since 2008.[10]

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 voice-over by Dervla Kirwan, to an enticing instrumental song — most notably Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" as well as Santana's "Samba Pa Ti", Olly Murs' "Busy", 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.[123]

The 2009 TV advertising campaign drew complaints, leading to national press coverage, regarding sexism.[124]

It was confirmed that Dannii Minogue would be one of the new faces of Marks & Spencer. She filmed her first commercial in South Africa, which featured Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real", for their Spring campaign that aired 24 March 2010.[125] Dannii travelled to Miami, Florida in January 2011 to shoot the commercial for M&S for the 2011 Spring collection, prior to her contractual termination. In August 2011, M&S announced the new faces of their campaigns would be Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Ryan Reynolds and David Gandy.[126]

Marks & Spencer dropped a series of planned television adverts in the July 2011, featuring Twiggy, Dannii Minogue and VV Brown as it started its corporate image revamp. It confirmed that Twiggy, Lisa Snowden and Jamie Redknapp would return for future advertising.[127]

On 31 March 2014, M&S launched the new iteration of its 'Leading Ladies' marketing campaign featuring figures including Emma Thompson, Annie Lennox, Rita Ora and Baroness Lawrence.[128]



Marks & Spencer has been criticised by pro-Palestinian activists over what they claim is its past support for Zionism, and for fruit trading with Israel.[129] A shop in Brighton was vandalised in 2004 with pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist graffiti.[130]

The company states, "We deal with politicians and officials, in government and opposition. We do not support or align ourselves to political parties and make no political donations".[131]

Comprehensive Spending Review

In October 2010, chairman Sir Stuart Rose was a signatory to a controversial letter to The Daily Telegraph[132] which claimed that "The private sector should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector, and the redeployment of people to more productive activities will improve economic performance, so generating more employment opportunities", despite recent job cuts of 1,000 staff.[133] This prompted calls for a boycott of Marks & Spencer and the companies represented by the other signatories to the letter.[134]

Contactless payment issues

Some Marks & Spencer customers claim that the chain's contactless payment terminals have taken money from cards other than the ones intended for payment. Contactless cards are supposed to be within about 4 cm of the front of the terminal to work. M&S investigated the incident and confirmed the new system had been extensively tested and was robust. It had recently rolled out the contactless payments system, provided by Visa Europe, to 644 UK stores.[135]

Muslim checkout-staff policy

In December 2013, Marks & Spencer announced that Muslim checkout staff in the UK could refuse to sell pork products or alcohol to customers at their till.[136] The policy was announced after at least one news outlet reported that customers waiting with goods that included pork or alcohol were refused service, and were told by a Muslim checkout worker to wait until another till became available.[137] The policy applied across all 703 UK M&S stores and prompted a strong backlash by customers.[138]

A company spokesman subsequently apologised and stated that they will attempt to reassign staff whose beliefs may impact their work to different departments, such as clothing.[139]


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  • Burns, Paul (2008). Corporate Entrepreneurship: Building an Entrepreneurial Organization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-023-054-263-1. 
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