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25th February 2020

Area Manager Irfan has taken his career to the next level

Irfan Patel Area Manager Central London South

M&S colleague Irfan always had an interest in retail, so when he completed his Business Studies degree at Brighton University and was a successful applicant on our Graduate Management scheme - it was just the beginning of a long and rewarding retail career with M&S.

“Since a young age I wanted to work in Retail and all my part time jobs throughout my studies were in small retail businesses. Just before going to university I had my own business which was selling leather jackets in a Sunday market. I remember getting up at 4am and the buzz I use to get in interacting with customers, selling, and making money!  I think this ultimately led me to a career in retail. After completing my graduate training at M&S my career progressed quickly with my second appointment being a Commercial Manager at the Flagship store Marble Arch, followed by Store Manager and Commercial Manager roles on Foods and Clothing in the large Flagship stores. I loved every appointment and in my early career did not have a plan and was not sure what I wanted to do instead was focused on doing a brilliant job and seeing what opportunity came up.”

With every new appointment, Irfan gained in depth knowledge of how stores operated on Clothing, Foods and Backstage.

“I felt like I was running my own business with the empowerment I was given to make decisions and be accountable to drive Sales and Profit for your store.”

Ready to embrace learning and development opportunities from inside and outside the business, Irfan took his career to the next level.

“Learning and development opportunities are always available at M&S and I was fortunate to be chosen for the ‘Oxford Summer School’ which was an intensive one-week residential Leadership Programme run by an external company for people across all retail businesses. This programme allowed me to further develop my leadership skills and supported my career aspiration of doing a Regional role. After completing numerous appointments, I wanted to do something different but continue to work in stores, so I was appointed as the Commercial and Operations Manager at Stratford Westfield one of our largest stores. This role was very different to my previous appointments and gave me an in-depth insight into Finance, Health and Safety along with increasing my knowledge on Logistics and maintenance. This was a great business broadening role and there are many opportunities within M&S that give you an insight into how different parts of the business operate whether in stores or in the support centre. After completing my appointment in Stratford, I was promoted to Area Manager which had been my career aspiration and was a dream come true and an amazing opportunity.”

Making a difference and inspiring others

Now in his new role as Area Manager of Central London South, Irfan is inspiring others to achieve their goals.

“My job as an Area Manager is to use my leadership and coaching skills to support and develop Store Managers to reach their full potential in running great shops that give an amazing experience to customers. Other elements of the role include driving profit, managing resource, identifying diverse talent, and working on strategy along with day-to-day operational activities. To support me in my new role I was nominated to take part in the Retail Week’s ‘Senior Leadership Academy’. This is a 12-month programme that promotes diversity at all levels and supports individuals fulfil their career aspirations."

“In the early part of my career there was a lack of role models from a similar background as me which I found difficult to understand as there is so much diverse talent within M&S, yet this was not represented within senior roles. Inclusion and Diversity is such an important topic for all retailers, and I am pleased with the steps M&S is taking to make it a more diverse and Inclusive workplace.”

Considering a career in-store?

Retail is a people business, and Irfan has been proud of the impact his role has had not only on the success of the business but on people’s lives and their careers.

“The most satisfying part of the job for me is where I have identified talent and believed and supported them in their career aspirations. It is this that gets me up every morning and even after 20 years in retail I get as excited as I did on my first day… If you like the sound of that and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and get a buzz out of giving a great experience to customers and want variety within your career than working for M&S could be the career for you.”

Keen to explore a retail career like Irfan? Take a look at our current opportunities and find out how you too could be a part of our in-store teams as we continue on our exciting transformation journey.