Marks & Spencer was founded by Michael Marks of Poland and Thomas Spencer of Yorkshire. When Marks relocated to England, he was able to open a small stall in Leeds’ Kirkgate Market. After a few years, Marks began to put up more market stalls in various locations in the Northwestern part of England. In 1894, Thomas Spencer decided to invest in Marks’ business and together they opened their first shop in Manchester, UK.
Marks & Spencer shops were known in the country for its policy of selling only goods produced in Britain or produced by British manufacturers. This policy, however, was discontinued in 2002. During its early years, the company entered into an agreement with British manufacturing companies to sell food and non-food items under the label St. Michael. The St. Michael brand was introduced to the UK market in 1928. By 1950, almost all of the products sold in Marks & Spencer stores were under the St. Michael brand.
In 1974, the company started to implement its international expansion when it introduced Asian food products in its stores. In 1975, M&S stores were opened in continental Europe. In 1979, M&S stores were opened in Ireland.
Marks & Spencer stores were also known for offering high-quality products at fair prices. In 1958, the stores sold Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes. In 1959, the stores implemented a no smoking policy because of the hazards that it posed inside the stores. In 1960, Marks & Spencer opened its first store in Central Asia (Kabul, specifically). The store was later closed down. In 1973, M&S had its first stores in Canada. In 1999, 38 M&S stores in Canada were closed because they were unprofitable.
In 1975, M&S opened its first stores in France, first in Paris then in Lyon. The stores continued to grow in number in the succeeding years, but a few stores were sold in 2001. In April of 2011, the management of M&S stores in France announced that the stores will be re-opening and will now also sell food items, aside from its non-food ones. It will also be opening several M&S food outlets as well. The first of the new shops will be opened in the later part of 2011.
Currently, all Marks & Spencer stores in other countries are owned by franchisees, except those stores in Hong Kong and Ireland (which are still owned by the parent company).
Ownership Type: Public
Employees: 76,250 (as of 2010)
Demography: food and non-food retail consumers
GASTROPUB, percy pig, MARKS & SPENCER