UK - London: Oxford Street - Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer plc (known also as M&S and sometimes colloquially as Marks and Sparks or Marks) is a British retailer. It is one of the most iconic chain stores in the UK and is the largest clothing retailer in the UK by turnover, as well as being a multi-billion pound food retailer. In 1997 it became the first British retailer to make a profit before tax of over £1 billion, though a few years later it plunged into a crisis which lasted for several years. Pictured here is their largest store, with 170,000 square feet of sales floor.
The original firm was a chain of "penny bazaars", founded by a Kazakhi born Polish-Jewish immigrant, Michael Marks in Leeds with a loan of £5 from Issac Dewhirst, a wholesaler. His first full store was opened in 1894 at Stretford Road, Hulme, in Manchester. Marks entered into a partnership with Thomas Spencer who was working as Dewhirst cashier. Dewhirst went into manufacturing and remains the biggest supplier to M&S. M&S became a household name thanks to the efforts of Marks' son, Simon Marks, and his friend, Israel Sieff.
Unlike most of its rivals M&S resisted the lure of television advertising when ITV was launched in 1955, preferring to rely on its reputation to draw in customers. It was not until the mid-1990s that the first TV commercials for M&S clothing were broadcast.
M&S made its reputation in the 20th century on a policy of only selling British-made goods. It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold the goods under the "St Michael" brand (trademark registered in 1928), which was used for both clothes and food. It also accepted the return of unwanted goods, giving a full cash refund if the receipt was shown no matter how long ago the product was purchased.
In 1988, the company acquired Brooks Brothers, an American clothing company and Kings Super Markets, a US food chain.