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  • 30% colleague increase to online distribution team for Christmas 2020
  • Contactless click and collect service expanding to 16 stores 
  • Robust hygiene & social distancing measures remain in place across the site 

As part of its Never the Same Again programme, M&S is turbocharging growth on M&S.com reflecting the accelerated shift to online shopping seen during lockdown. 

In August, M&S reported a 39.2% increase in its online sales and has seen over 1.5 million new downloads of its popular app since the relaunch of its Sparks loyalty scheme in July. Customers are already turning to online for festive inspiration—with Christmas related searches up 80% on last year. 

In preparation, M&S is building capacity at its Leicestershire-based distribution site in three ways:

Investment in people power

Since July, M&S has recruited 400 new permanent colleagues, and over 500 fixed term colleagues will join for the Christmas period. This means M&S’s distribution centre will be run by a team of c.4,000 over Christmas, an uplift of over 30% on the c.3,000 colleagues who supported the site in 2019. 

In line with M&S’s Never the Same Again commitment to build more flexible, efficient teams across the business, all new colleagues are now trained in a minimum of two of the four core tasks (receiving products, putting products away, picking products and packing products) helping to create a more agile workforce. 

The safety and wellbeing of all colleagues has been the highest priority throughout the crisis and the Castle Donington site adapted quickly with robust hygiene and social distancing measures in place from the outset—from door closing devices to increased cleaning schedules to perspex screens between workstations. All supported by clear daily communications. All new colleagues complete an induction that covers all aspects of health and safety and emphasises the importance of the measures that have been in place throughout the pandemic continuing. 

Introducing new technology 

Since it first opened in 2012, the site at Castle Donington has combined high levels of automated technology and a fantastic team of colleagues. Ahead of this Christmas, supporting M&S’s people are two new “Autobagger” machines—nicknamed Percy & Penny. These new machines pack 2,000 items every hour, and like the rest of the site, are powered by 100% renewable energy—with 25% coming from the solar panels installed on the roof at Castle Donington. 

Additionally the team is achieving operational efficiencies through the application of Microsoft Power BI and improving ways of working through utilising the communications platform Microsoft teams. M&S Teams usage has quadrupled during the pandemic. 

Adding extra, more efficient space

Last year M&S completed the build of its new 245k sq ft mezzanine floor at Castle Donington and it is fully operational for Christmas 2020. The record despatch from the mezzanine last year was 50,000 single items—this year the team is aiming for 75,000 by utilising updated picking and packing IT logic. This IT mapping has made the routes colleagues follow more efficient—meaning they can pick 15% more product but walk the same distance. 

Paul Burns, M&S’s Clothing & Home Head of Logistics said, 

“We’re set up to ensure our colleagues can safely help our customers shop online with confidence this Christmas – from great new team members to investing in our tech.” 

Using bricks & clicks advantage

In addition to improvements at Castle Donington, M&S is utilising its advantage as a bricks & click retailer to support accelerated online growth. Teams at 140 M&S stores teams are already picking online orders, for click & collect and home delivery, in order to support growing demand—a significant increase on 86 last year. During the pandemic M&S has flexibly switched on this service and has an additional 100 stores set up and ready to pack orders in response to local demand. 

Delivering Christmas magic to your door or local store (for free)

Alongside its home delivery service, M&S already offers one of the largest free click & collect services in the UK—operating it across its 600 owned stores and selected convenience locations. 

Following customer shopping changes during the pandemic, over 40% of M&S parcels are now collected at an M&S Food-only store versus just 30% last year. Following a successful trial at four stores, during November M&S is extending its new contactless Click & Collect service to a further twelve stores including Hedge End, Epsom and York Vangarde.


—ENDS—