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The Rise And Fall Of Marks & Spencer
by Judi Bevan
ISBN 1861974310 / 9781861974310 / 1-86197-431-0
Publisher Profile Books Ltd
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Judi Bevan's The Rise & Fall of Marks & Spencer tells the storyof how the distinctively bright green figurehead of British retail got the blues. From humble beginnings, Marks & Spencer became the UK's leading department store, famous for its ready meals, woolly jumpers and no-frills underwear. However, the British chain suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune starting in the late 1990s, with tumbling profits, poor sales and a series of boardroom bust-ups. Judi Bevan's intelligent and thoughtful analysis of the Marks & Spencer story covers the financial rise and fall of the retailing icon, but it's the personalities and relationships that made Marks & Spencer different. This was the first British retailer to offer staff hot meals at lunchtime and to organise holiday trips abroad for its workers. Yet, M&S also ruled with a rod of iron: staff were expected to be punctual, efficient, polite and--most dangerously of all--to unquestioningly follow orders from above. It's this colonial-style rule that ultimately led Marks & Spencer into disaster and The Rise and Fall carefullydetails each step down the path. While the Gap and Next were making inroads on the British high street, M&S was still in a world ofchauffeur driven managers and carpeted executive offices.
It was evident to journalists visiting Baker Street duringthis time that much of the company still looked longingly backward. Visitors would be escorted along seemingly endless corridors, with their closed doors on either side, by a uniformed female minder who would transport them into the care of the white-gloved waiters on the seventh floor. The atmosphere reeked of imperial Britain.As the family interest in the company declined, a generation of middle managers fought and back-stabbed their way into the boardroom, not always in the best interests of the company. With more than 50 years of history to cover, it's not surprising that Judi Bevan's tale can occasionally become confusing, but this is morethan made up for by the level of detail: from the controversial cheap home loans offered to directors to the regimented positioning of oranges on the fruit aisles, this is as compelling as business gets. --SallyWhittle [via]