Marks and spencers came into existance when Michael Marks and Tom Spencer formed a partnership in 1894,Michael Marks having already set up a market stall in Leeds.
It is now a massive highstreet store,with stores in 30 countries world-wide and has an extensive internet store...with their total turnover being in excess of 8 billion pounds per year.
M&S (the abbreviated name) sells clothing,homeware,financial services and foods although foods are not available on the internet.They also have gifts and flowers.
Although their buisness covers a large area I wish to comment on their U.K stores as these are where my experiance and interest lies...................
What's in store:
Their stores consist of several departments,and are consistantly well layed out and signposted.Many stores are multi-level with access to every level by stairs,escalator and lifts..a definate plus.
The main departments are womens clothing,mensware,childrensware,lingerie,food halls,financial services and furniture/furnishings..with the latter only available in some stores.
There are several sub departments under "clothing"..I shall deal with them individualy as the general qualities vary alot in each area.
Has been around for a long time,has a good range and generous sizes which suit all shapes and sizes.Availability of styles and sizes are pretty good.They are also one of the few stores that cater for men with large necks!!
The quality in the mens department is quite good..although a few cheap imports are showing their faces and letting the side down a bit...with stripes not matching,poor stitching quality,inferior fabrics and buttons dropping off :(....But this is in limited quantities and styles.The clothing is fairly expensive,but generally you get what you pay for.
Again around for a long time,and unfortunately despite bringing in designer names,is generally reflected in alot of dated styles.Here the imports are previlent and really let the side down..with some shoddy goods at very high prices.Also the old and very good standard sizing,although still available in alot of fits..is unreliable and varies vastly from one garment to the next...this is a more rescent problem and certainly wouldn't have been the case 10 years ago..
The availability of the larger sizes is a bit of a let down..and at sale time the shelves are racked with zillions of size 10s...a reflection of overstocking in the wrong sizes..which should be obvious to them by now!!
Also they great ranges of hats/accessories they have a history of being great and affordable with has dwindled and gotten more expensive..a shame I must say ,but the shoes are definately a better prospect and great value.
Here there is a good range of very nice clothes,and whilst expensive in some areas is generaly value for money.Again the sizing can be a bit irrattic,but over-generous if anything..(my large 4 year old daughter now fits into the 18-24 month baby grows we bought three years ago!!).
The quality of these clothes is generally very high too with a great range of styles and good availability .
This is by far their high point in the clothing area...a geat range of every size and every style to suite every one and at competitive prices with excellent quality..And by everyone I mean all ages,sizes and tastes :)
The availabiliy in this area is excellent too.
M&S have the most impressive food halls,with excellent quality..far superior to most supermarkets and generally competitive on pricing too.They have a good general range,specialising in their ready meals and their "food to go range"(newly named and still increasing in products) which is their lunch time style range ,and really holds the market with its quality,range and prices as is often reflected by the rush of people of all walks of life diving into the store for their dinner.
Availability is great,with shelves seldom empty and good continuation on most products(i.e they don't stop producing an item the moment you get to like it!).Although in the occasional range they do by design vary the product choices to enable new recipies in regularly.
In the stores that stock homeware the range is fairly good,including bedding furniture,cookware ,dinnerware and other items such as photo frames etc,etc.
Here the quality is excellent,choice good and availability reasonable..the pricing whilst good value is considerable to many pockets.
The financial department is growing and very popular,with the name of M&S having a long standing financial basis it inspires a trust in people.
They offer a good range of services including Insurances,assurance,stakeholder pensions,loans,ISAs,unit trusts and store cards,Their rates are competitive..their store card at present being 18.9% apr..low amoungst store cards,but less competitive than some credit card.
Their loans currently at 9.9%apr again is very reasonable compared to many banks..some of which offer upto 20% apr at the moment.,but can go as low as 7.2% if you realy shop around.
The staff in M&S are very polite and generaly very helpful,and are only too happy to search other branches to find items they have not got in stock,and order them in..This is a refreshing change from the rude and unhelpful staff that are more and more previlant in many stores....manners it seams are a dying art !!
Queues are very short,with maybe the occasional exception on the odd Saturday morning,but they do make great efforts to alleviate the problem when it arrises.
The only downside to the service is that it can be hard to get the attention of a staff member when in need of some general assistance,and this is not because they are hard to find,more that they seem to have endless tasks that involve walking aimlessly around the store talking to each other...I have noticed this repeatedly in many stores and it can be very irratating!
Returning goods is an easy task,and they are very cooperative in this.The only thing worth remembering that for a refund to a credit card is that they will require I.D..a good thing from a security aspect.
Traditionally a great store,that has some excellent features,unfortunately thier value for money and tradition runs out in their main clothing departments,where they need to either give up or get some new buyers in!!
Their food department is most definately a tribute to them,and a pleasure to visit,likewise their homeware departments.
Their courtious staff do them a great justice,making the whole shopping experiance here pleasurable.
A last note,although not truely in summery style is their three main" mottos",but I do think it sums up the vital issues of the stores'
Vision-To be the standard which all others are measured.
(A great concept and something they could acheive with some effort)
Mission-To make aspirational quality excessable to all.
(not unless they can give 50% of the population a pay rise!!! And improve their clothing qualities)
Values-Quality,value,service,innovation & trust.
(Again..work needed on quality and pricing,innovation already acheived as evient by their string of awards in this area.And Trust they have,but are going to have to waork hard to keep).