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Putting a spark into newly revamped M&S
WHEN Jane Axford started working for Marks & Spencer in the 1970s, managers would throw sand under the counters to make sure staff swept up properly at night.
“A lot of things have changed since I started out,” said Mrs Axford, after the Queen Street store doubled the size of its café and updated its food hall with an instore bakery.
The mum-of-three from Wheatley started working as a teenage sales advisor for M&S in 1973 when the city centre store was in Cornmarket Street.
The Queen Street branch of M&S opened in 1978, after transferring from Cornmarket and has recently completed a 22-week revamp.
Now 57, Mrs Axford is a recruitment coordinator looking forward to completing 40 years with the chain.
She said: “An awful lot has changed over the years, including the uniform.
“When I started I wore a little check polyester dress and women did not wear trousers.
“A lot of stock was kept behind the counter, whereas customers today can touch the garments. The store is much lighter and brighter and clothes-wise you can’t beat the quality.”
Mrs Axford, who works part-time, said there were now only a handful of staff left who transferred from the Cornmarket branch.
She added: “I have stayed so long because I have always enjoyed working here and the wages are competitive.”
When the Queen Street branch opened in 1978, a pint of milk cost 11p, while an 800g loaf of bread was 28p. Now a pint of milk costs 50p and a loaf is 80p.
Manager Kevin Newcombe, 36, from Wantage, said customers and 300 full and part-time staff were pleased with the changes at the 70,000 sq ft store.
He added: “After doubling the size of the café, there are now 150 seats including new booths.
“M&S is one of the biggest players in the city centre and this investment is good news for high street shopping.”
Deputy manager James Devlin added: “There are a few staff who worked in the Cornmarket Street store who are still with us – that shows tremendous loyalty.”
Customer Geoff Carver, 72, from Marston, a retired shop manager, said: “The new café is fantastic but they need more people serving because queues develop.”
To mark the official opening of the revamped store today customers can go on a treasure hunt at the Queen Street M&S to pick up gift vouchers totalling £1,000.
Between noon and 2pm, customers will be invited to find a series of gold stars dotted around the store and can then exchange them for gift cards.