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Success Newsletters

Vol 9, Number 12 December 2009

In this Edition
1. Marks and Spencer
2. Monthly Inspirational Quote
3. Recommended Reading

Marks and Spencer
Growing up in England, Marks and Spencer was a way of life and major outing for me and my family. M & S or Marks and Sparks, as we used to call it, is today the largest clothing retailer in the United Kingdom, as well as an up-market food retailer on most if not all of the major high streets throughout the United Kingdom.

The company was founded by Michael Marks, an ambitious and visionary businessman and Polish immigrant. He opened a penny bazaar, the equivalent of the North American five and dime, around 1880 in Hartlepool, his port of entry to England. He sold imported toys and other goods from his native Poland. After Thomas Spencer joined the company in 1884 it was known as Marks and Spencer. One of the original Penny Bazaars remains open in Newcastle upon Tyne to this day and is now the smallest M and S store in the operation.

From those humble beginnings, Marks and Spencer has evolved into over 600 domestic and 285 international stores. They are famous for standing by the quality of their products and were the first major retailer in the UK, and possibly in the world, to offer a full cash refund if the receipt was shown, no matter how long ago the product was purchased. They have amended that policy twice, in 2005 and in 2009, but even today it still has the most generous refund policy of any British high street store.

What has always impressed me about Marks and Spencer over the years is their longevity, the quality of their products, the spotlessly clean stores, and the efficient and knowledgeable staff. In addition, M & S is forward thinking and willing to try new things. They don’t always succeed but are willing to admit their mistakes and cut their losses. Which is why, sadly, there are no more Marks and Spencer stores in Canada.

Here are some of the lessons on longevity and success that can be taken from Marks and Spencer from my research and personal observations.

1. They provide outstanding quality and fair value in everything they sell.
2. They provide exceptional service to their customers.
3. They make shopping pleasant and comfortable to their customers. This results in a comfort level and repeat business and loyalty.
4. There is consistency in all their stores, a uniform approach that makes it easy for their customers to find things.
5. They provide outstanding training and leadership to their people
6. They are willing to take risks. For example: to explore enter overseas markets, test the waters, but see when it in necessary to pull the plug.
7. They choose locations based on convenience to the customers. Their stores cannot be missed on any major high street in the UK.
As a result of this focus, Marks and Spencer is a way of life and institution in the UK to this day and a “must” in the overseas stores they serve for their customers. Marks and Spencer is a quality brand that is recognized around the world.
Great companies evolve, go with the times, make tough decisions, are bold, decisive, take the knocks, and bounce back. Marks and Spencer is no exception to this rule. For example, in 1998 it became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over 1 billion pounds sterling, and a few years later it plunged into a major crisis that lasted several years. However, discipline and focus on its principles have enabled M&S to survive. In fact, in May of this year, to celebrate its 125th anniversary, Marks and Spencer ran a number of penny bazaars to recognize its humble beginnings and thank its loyal customers. Money raised from the bazaars went to local charities.
To this day, although I have lived in Canada for close to 24 years, a trip back to visit the UK always results in a visit to my favorite M and S store in Manchester, one of the biggest and busiest high street stores in the whole UK operation. The result? Another suitcase purchased to carry everything back to Canada with me!

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe”
Oprah Winfrey

Talent: Develop It, Sell It and Be It by Tom Peters
I picked up this small pocket booklet at Baltimore Airport the other week flying home. The book has a nice feel to it with lots of engaging colors, and the presentation is excellent. The content is terrific as well. Tom Peters is one very smart guy. Some would call him a guru on leadership, organizational design and future trends. I would not argue with that at all. This book has crucial information for reinventing your business. It is provocative, will challenge you, and has some great perceptions on the way we work.

Date Added: December 30, 2009 | Comments (0) | Filed under: Newsletters

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