Marks and Spencer
“Having started with M&S as a 16-year-old student, I have now been with the business for 24 years — I’ll soon be receiving my 25 years Long Service Award!” said Nuala.
What does your job entail?
I am responsible for the day-to-day running of the largest Marks & Spencer womenswear business in Ireland. As a leading high street retailer, great customer service is an essential part of shopping at M&S, so an important part of my job is to ensure our customers get the personal touch they have come to expect from us.
I work closely with a team of managers to deliver excellent store standards and ensure our clothing is presented in a visually compelling way.
Is it 9-5?
Not at all!
The M&S Lisburn store trades 82 hours a week, and is open from 8am to 9pm.
I work both early morning and late night shifts each week, as well as full days, so I’m on hand at all times of the day.
I also do a duty manager shift each week, which gives me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills and get involved in other aspects of running a large store.
How did you get into this line of work?
I’m a naturally creative person and from an early age, I always had an interest in fashion.
I never saw myself being in a nine-to-five office job as I really enjoy being on the go and meeting new people. I applied for a part-time job with M&S while I was still at school and joined the company as a late night weekend customer assistant when the Lisburn store first opened in 1989.
When I left school, I decided to stay with M&S and pursue a career in retail.
Outline your career to date?
Having started with M&S as a 16-year-old student, I have now been with the business for 24 years — I’ll soon be receiving my 25 years Long Service Award!
I applied and was lucky enough to get a full-time post in the Lisburn store’s Wine Shop. I enjoyed this job immensely and it gave me the confidence to develop my interpersonal skills. Learning about our wine portfolio gave me the opportunity to develop my knowledge and support my selling skills.
Although I enjoyed my role in the Wine Shop, my interest in fashion meant my heart was set on working within the clothing aspect of our business.
I was successful in applying for a deputy supervisor post in womenswear in M&S Lisburn. The role was so exciting and I loved learning about the product innovation M&S is famous for.
After a year, I was promoted to super-visor in our Bangor store and then in 1998, when M&S opened a new store in Newtownbreda, I moved over to take up the role of womenswear section manag-er for the store launch.
I spent five happy years in Newtown-breda before I found myself back in Lisburn to take on a commercial manager development programme.
After a successful training period in the Lisburn Home Store, I was appointed as a commercial manager in the M&S Belfast store.
The position gave me the opportunity to build my managerial skills and to understand the different elements of the M&S business, including logistics, stock management and finance control.
I also gained experience in other areas of the business including menswear, kidswear and lingerie.
I moved back to the M&S Lisburn store in 2005 as womenswear commercial manager to help oversee the store expan-sion. Eight years on, I’ve seen the store evolve, expand and modernise several times, but I’m still here and still love my job.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
I was educated at St Louise’s Comprehensive College Belfast where I achieved nine GCSEs and three A-Levels.
Staff training and development is extremely important and I’ve had the opportunity not only to complete an NVQ Level 3 in business management, but also to benefit from continuous training throughout my career with M&S so far.
What qualities are required for your job — personal and professional?
During my time at school, I was taught the importance of appearance, punctuality and attendance. These vital life lessons were instilled in me not only at school but also by my parents — as a result, I have a strong work ethic.
On a professional level, I have very good communication skills which support me in leading my team to deliver a first class shopping experience for our customers.
I’m also a good decision maker which helps me give clear direction to help meet our business objectives.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of work?
One of my biggest challenges currently is the launch of our eagerly anticipated new autumn womenswear range.
With the aim of putting style and quality back at the heart of our products, we’re also refreshing our store environment to really emphasise each of the M&S brands and build on the company heritage.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
As a full-time working mum, any spare time I have is spent with my two-year-old son Harry and my partner, David.
Work-life balance is really important to us and we love spending quality time together as a family.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I have the privilege of having a grand-mother who is 103 years old!
Her name is Tilly Rooney and she was born in 1910.
If I’m lucky enough to have inherited her genes, I could be here for a few years yet!
Who has inspired you most in your life?
I’d have to say my grandmother Tilly. She has a great love and zest for life and has instilled in her family strong work ethics and determination.
She has taught me to be a strong independent woman and to strive to be successful at anything I take on.
And of course she is a big M&S fan and still visits me in the Lisburn store from time-to-time!