M&S is gearing up for what it is calling its most digital Christmas yet, with the addition of hundreds of new staff at its online distribution centre in Castle Donington, Leicestershire.
The retailer said it had already added about 400 new permanent roles at the non-food site since July and is also hiring 500 seasonal workers to cope with the festive demand. It said this would boost the number of people employed at the site to about 4,000, an increase of over 30% on last Christmas.
M&S’s online sales increased by 39.2% in August and it said it had seen an 80% increase in Christmas-related searches on its website this year compared with 2019.
It has also installed two new ‘Autobagger’ packing machines, which can each pack 2,000 items per hour. They have been nicknamed Percy and Penny after the retailer’s Percy and Penny Pig sweets.
M&S said it was also increasing its digital capacity across its store estate. It has increased the number of stores that pick online orders for click & collect and home delivery from 86 to 140 this year and has a further 100 stores on standby, which can come on board to deal with increased local demand when needed.
The retailer has also expanded its contactless parcel click & collect service from four stores to 16.
“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,” said Paul Burns, clothing and home lead at M&S.
The latest digital push comes under its Never the Same Again strategy, which aims to ensure M&S can respond more quickly and efficiently to changing customer needs since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
In August, M&S announced it was cutting 7,000 roles across its central support centre, regional management and UK store estate as a result of a “material shift in trade” caused by the pandemic.