Degree and University: Retail Management, University of Surrey then M&S Graduate Scheme.
Work Title: Commercial Manager at Marks & Spencer’s flagship store at Marble Arch in London.
What do you actually do? I am responsible for the day-to-day running of the Home department, as well as the Customer Service Desk, and the Bureau de Change.
I manage a team of six section managers and look after a combined team of roughly 100 sales assistants. This involves driving sales, service and costs, and motivating the whole team.
Why did you decide to go into this sector? I chose it for the fast pace and the fact that every day can be different. I love working with people – staff and customers – as they make my job so interesting and exciting. I also enjoy having a hands-on job – I couldn’t sit behind a desk for 40 hours a week.
How did you find out about your particular course? I worked in Next as a suit sales advisor when I was 16 so I’ve always been interested in retail. I also did a Business Studies A Level at school so when it came to choosing my university course I knew that I wanted to do a degree which combined both retail and business. I did my research and found out which universities offered the most suitable courses before visiting them and then deciding on the Retail Management course at the University of Surrey.
Would you undertake further training to further your career? Absolutely. Retail is a fast-paced industry and it’s important to be ahead of the game. Since completing the M&S Graduate Scheme, I have attended numerous in-house training sessions on all aspects of the business, from sales to costs and would be keen to undertake additional sessions in order to further develop and expand my skill set.
What do you like most about what you do? Are there any downsides? I thrive in the busy environment and love working with the team. In this job, I am a trader for the best retailer on the high street. I really don’t dislike anything about it.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths that you need to make a success of what you do? Being able to communicate well, not just with customers and store staff, but with Head Office and Senior Directors. You also need to be able to influence decision-making within store and for the business. You have to have a resilient character, as the priorities can change day-to-day, and you have to manage your time effectively.
You also have to stay focused on the job at hand. Being in the flagship store, there is always loads going on. For example Sir Stuart Rose (our Chairman) could visit and want a detailed walk around the store. Ultimately, I need to get the right people in at the right time, at the right place. This can be challenging at times!
What would be your best piece of advice for graduates wishing to come into this sector? You have to be prepared to be on your feet all day and be very self-motivated. As well as being passionate about retail, you should love working with people.
Is there anything else you would like to add? I hope to become a Store Manager, eventually running one of our larger stores. I also plan on spending time in our Head Office to get a complete understanding of the business. Ultimately I would love to be a Director of a business unit.