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November 6, 2006

M&S goes on training tour

Leading retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S), which has just announced a profit rise of 32%, has taken a training event on the road to prepare staff for its new store format.

Called The Look, the roadshow, which was organised by Event Marketing Solutions (EMS), visited nearly 40 stores in the UK and Ireland over three months, helping M&S provide training for around 3,500 store staff. The touring experience was designed to help the retailer’s shop-floor employees develop the practical skills necessary to get the best out of their new working environments.

EMS used its Voyager 2 vehicle for the roadshow, offering 650 square foot of space and containing a variety of hands-on activities, including scale models of clothing merchandisers, before-and-after store refurbishment images, an example of the “perfect shop window” and touch-screen quizzes. Small groups of M&S staff were guided round the exercises during the 30-minute training sessions.

“Following a two-day, location-based training course for our senior team called The Look Academy, we wanted to cascade the training through to our store teams,” explained Brendan Davey, M&S’s development store visual manager. “Our challenge was to create a motivating, hands-on experience for store teams that didn’t impact on the day-to-day running of our stores or require any selling space.

“With so much change going on in stores, we really wanted to offer teams a glimpse of what they were working so hard to achieve and a taste of the environment they would be working in on completion of their store remodel,” he continued. “Working with EMS to develop The Look bus and embark on a nationwide store tour offered us a great solution.”
Karen Burbidge, brand consultant from Visual Thinking, worked with M&S on the training, visual merchandising and facilitation for the roadshow. She believes that taking the training to staff in this way has greater impact than simply using a training room within a store.
“The mobile facility is designed and equipped to reflect the M&S brand and teams were left feeling highly motivated and excited about their store remodel,” she said.
EMS, which has seen a growing demand for its services recently, has taken a range of organisations on the road, from charities like Macmillan Cancer Care to financial institutions such as the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society. Its managing director Keith Austin is particularly pleased with The Look. “The M&S roadshow is a perfect example of how staff training can be brought to life by taking people out of their usual environment, away from their day-to-day responsibilities and immersing them in focused activities,” he said. “In-store training rooms are one option, but a fully branded, bespoke mobile unit can give the learning process added impact.”

With an events programme as forward-thinking as this, it's not surprising M&S has turned a corner – it's share price on 7 November hit a record high!

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