Marks & Spencer will open five new flagship full-line stores this year in major UK cities, with an all-women team of six managers appointed to lead them.
The all-female group has more than 115 years of retail experience between them and will lead a combined team of over 1,000 staff taking responsibility for some of the retailer’s biggest and most prominent sites.
Store manager Justine Brook and her team opened the first of the five major new stores on 25 May – the new 97,000 sqft, 100% electric-powered M&S Leeds White Rose – bringing a previously empty former Debenhams site back to life with more than 750 customers queuing up on opening day morning.
The other five managers are busy preparing to open their new stores later this year in the key city centre sites of Liverpool ONE shopping centre (manager, Kirsty Williams) and Birmingham’s iconic Bullring (Naomi Hartley & Emily King, who will job share the role), and in two of the country’s most popular shopping centres – Manchester’s Trafford Centre (Laura Smith) and the Lakeside Centre in Essex (Dior Hudson).
The stores will offer local customers a fresh market-style Foodhall and spacious new Clothing, Home & Beauty departments, alongside investment in new digital services to offer a “seamless omnichannel experience for customers”.
Alongside plenty of checkouts, the stores will offer mobile “Scan & Shop” which is currently used by 33,000 customers each week and lets shoppers use their phone to scan and bag food items as they shop, directly from the M&S app, and a new option to skip the queues and pay straight away in store fitting rooms. Digital screens will also make it quicker and easier to Click & Collect orders, with parcels ready in under 60 seconds.
The appointment of the all-woman store manager team follows the launch of a new flexible working offering at M&S – Worklife – which is designed to help existing staff achieve a better work/life balance, as well as helping to attract new talent. In addition to the option of either full-time or part-time hours, retail managers can also choose to work a four-day compressed week or nine-day compressed fortnight.
The retailer has also launched its Job Share Finder app – a brand new approach to make flexible working easier for those colleagues able to job share, including the store manager team at the new M&S Birmingham Bullring, Naomi Hartley & Emily King who will work together to launch the new store later this year.
The new openings are a key part of the retailer’s £480 million investment in bigger, better stores across the UK, generating over 3,400 new jobs.
Sarah Findlater, Group HR Director at M&S, said: “We’re delighted to have such a fantastic group of women to lead our five biggest new store openings this year. The whole team have been working incredibly hard to transform the previously empty spaces into bigger, better M&S stores that reflect how our customers want to shop today – with our full Clothing, Home and Food offer available, along with innovations like Digital Click & Collect and our Scan & Shop technology.
“Stores are key to M&S’s omnichannel future and we know from the performance of our recently opened and renewed locations that customers are responding well to the changes we’re making.
“We also want to make sure that M&S is a great place to work for our colleagues. We all love working in Retail because it’s such an exciting and fast-paced industry, but that doesn’t mean we need to miss out on the moments that matter in our lives, so we’re determined to offer our colleagues the options to help them achieve a good work-life balance.
“Whether it’s working flexible hours or job sharing like Naomi and Emily in our new Birmingham Bullring store, our colleagues have told us that these options have given them more choice and freedom on how they’re able to make time for their families and themselves.”
Main image: L-R Laura Smith, Kirsty Williams, Justine Brook, Dior Hudson, Emily King and Naomi Hartley