Marks and Spencer

1 Conversation

Marks and Spencer1 is one of the UK's leading retailers with over six hundred in the UK and over two hundred in 40 other countries. Their popularity is just like a supermarket but has much better quality, this can explain its high prices2. They have many department stores, branches and food outlets for people to shop in, so it is surprising to know that it was once a market stall over one hundred years ago and since then, a lot of things have happened to it to make it into what it is today.

Michael Marks

Michael Marks founded the Marks and Spencer business but started his life in a much different way than a wealthy businessman. He was born in Slonim, Russia in 1859 and as a young man, he emigrated to Leeds where there was a company that employed refugees. He was taken on by a man named Isaac Dewhurst, an owner of a warehouse. Isaac employed Michael Marks to sell goods to different villages all around Leeds. Michael wanted a business partner so he could expand the business so Isaac recommended a man named Tom Spencer. After a long time looking after the business and getting massive profits, Michael Marks died on the 31st of December, 1907

Time Line

The Beginning Of A New Business

Michael Marks opened a market stall at Leeds Kirgate market in 1884. As soon as he established the business, he moved to 20 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, where he opened a shop and formed a partnership with a man named Tom Spencer, hence the name Marks and Spencer. Tom was a former cashier from the wholesale company IJ Dewhirst. Marks and Spencer opened a new establishment in Cross Arcade in Leeds, marking the change from a market stall, to a wealthy business. Tom Spencer died in 1905 on the 25th of July and two years later, Michael Marks died. It was now time for the business to succeed in a greater profit.


During this period a few things happened that started off a new business empire; the St Michael trade mark brand began and canned food was introduced.

  • 1908

    Marks and Spencer buys the Penny Bazaar company.

  • 1916

    Michael Marks' son, Simon, becomes chairman.

  • 1926

    Marks and Spencer becomes a public limited company.

    Marks and Spencer starts selling textiles in their shops.

  • 1928

    The famous St Michael trade mark was registered, replacing the St Margaret brand that had been running since 1875.

  • 1931

    Marks and Spencer started a food stall, selling food and canned goods.

Fitting To Standards

During the 1930's, Marks and Spencer introduced café bars which produced cheap, hygienic and nutritious mass catering, which helped during the second world war3.In 1933, Simon Marks commissioned a woman named Flora Solomon to set up a public welfare service that provided things from pensions to camping holidays. A scientific research lab was built a year later to search for new fabrics; Marks and Spencer were first retailer to do this. During the second world war, Marks and Spencer looked for new ways to produce food and clothing that would fit into the wartime specification but still keep their standards. In 1948, they held a self service trial and became a success.

The Expanding Business

All goods were sold under the St Michael label in 1956 and it sold its own chocolate for the first time. Three years later, Marks and Spencer introduced a non smoking rule; making them the first retailer to do this. Then in 1961, they banned dogs, with the exception of guide dogs, due to hygiene at the food counters and other food sections. After working fifty six years in the company, Simon Marks died in 1964 and Israel Sieff took over as chairman. In 1973, Marks and Spencer started selling wine for the first time. A year later, they started selling Indian and Chinese, using recipes we use today. They became European and in 1979; opening a store in Dublin.

The Bumpy Ride

In 1986, Marks and Spencer introduced funiture in their stores. Two years later, they had a bumpy ride. Although in that year they became the first British retailer to make a pre tax profit of £1 billion and became international by opening a store in Hong Kong but their customers protested for them to keep selling British goods. In 1999, Marks and Spencer published a code of practice of Global Sourcing Principles to improve conditions for workers overseas, they also created their new website and started online shopping. Online shopping is very popular today and people can purchase clothes from their website where the clothes can only be found in selected stores. In 2000, Luc Vandevelde became the new chairman; after a few months, the position of chief executive and chairman merged.

A New Era

In the past few years, Marks and Spencer started selling new brands like Per Una for women, Blue Harbour and Autograph. During this period, Marks and Spencer announced that they are the first ever retailer to only use free range eggs in their food products. In the next year, the Marks and Spencer Cook trade mark range was launched: the scheme is supposed to get people cooking in the kitchen again. A month later, they were ranked as the top retailer and one of the top companies in Business in the Community. Later in the year, the &more, a combined credit card and loyalty programme, was launched. In 2004, Stuart Rose was appointed as Chief Executive of Marks and Spencer. As everything was running smoothly, in 2007, customers were complaing on quality. Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight and University Challenge presenter, claimed "Pants no longer provide adequate support" and "Socks are wearing out much more quickly". Even though there was a 2.2% drop in the like-for-like profits, Stuart Rose explained that the quality in their products were the best they have ever been.

Enviromental Policy

Look Behind The Label

The Look Behind The Label campaign was introduced in 2006 and the aim is to show customers the work that is done behind the products. Marks and Spencer made themselves part of the Fairtrade scheme where all their products are made by people who get the right working conditions anywhere in the world. An example of a Fairtrade product would be chocolate.

Plan A

Plan A began on the 15th of January, 2007. Its aim is to make Marks and Spencer become carbon neutral. There are one hundred action points and they hope to achieve them by 2012. Their aims are: become carbon neutral, send no waste to landfill and to make customers and employees live a healthier life style. Although in January 2008 they had an 18% fall in the share price, Marks and Spencer said they are still carrying on with their plans. In May 2008, they introduced the 5p a bag scheme where people have to pay 5p per plastic bag and the profit would then go to the charity, Groundwork UK. Since the scheme was introduced, an 80% reduction in plastic bags and £500,000 has been raised for Groundwork UK. The slogan for Plan A is There Is No Plan B, which means that we must stick with this plan otherwise we are going to lose our planet. Plan A is a very good scheme for people who are trying to save the planet and they hope that other shops will follow in Marks and Spencer footsteps.

1 Also known to a lot of people as Marks and Sparks or M&S.2 This doesn't bother some people but there are people who are protesting against their pricing arrangements.3 This is because there were food rationings

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