The rise and fall of Marks & Spencer (1955 – 2001)

Read part I of my history of M&S here.

In 1955 Marks & Spencer employed 28,403 people.

In 1963 M&S was the fifth most highly valued stock in Britain, at £435 million. By 1970 this value had risen to £615 million. In 1968 M&S overtook Woolworth as Britain’s leading retailer in terms of both sales and profits.

In 1972 M&S employed 37,094, putting it just outside the top 50 employers in Britain. In 1973 the company enjoyed a turnover of £360 million and employed capital worth £160 million.

M&S began to sell frozen food from 1972. By 1973 convenience food was being sold at 100 stores.

It was in the early 1970s that M&S began its first foreign expansions. In 1973 the company acquired a 50 percent stake in three Canadian clothing retailers. A controlling interest was acquired three years later.

In 1975 a store was opened in Paris. By the mid-1990s this store ranked among the company’s top ten worldwide in terms of sales and profitability.

1982 sales were just under £2.2 billion. By 1982 M&S, with a market capitalization of $3.7 billion, was the fifth highest valued public company in Europe.

In 1984 the first non-family member was appointed as chairman and chief executive.

The first location outside a town centre was opened in Gateshead in 1986.

In 1988 the company made two American acquisitions, Brooks Brothers, the clothing retailer, and Kings Supermarkets. Brooks Brothers cost M&S $750 million, and included 47 stores.

By 1990 M&S operated 275 stores in Canada and eight stores in France. That year the company opened its first store in Spain.

In 1992 M&S employed 55,750 people. It was the twentieth largest company employer in Britain.

In 1994 M&S was the only retailer in the world with a AAA credit rating. The retailer had a reputation for quality and value for money. It boasted a turnover of over £5 billion and 679 stores.

In 1999 profits took a sudden slump. Excessive profit margins eroded customer loyalty. The company withdrew from Canada that year.

In 2001 M&S announced a radical restructuring of its operations. The UK business was revamped and its US retail operations and company owned stores in Europe were divested.

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