It was a Polish refugee, Michael Marks, who began things in 1884, by opening a penny market-stall in Leeds. A decade later, a clothes shop cashier called Tom Spencer joined up, and the pair proceeded to make retailing history. After the First World War, the business concentrated on selling clothes and food, and floated on the stock market in 1926 to raise money for expansion. Now 15 million people visit an M&S store every week.

Vital statistics:
M&S employs 65,000 people in 399 stores and offices around the UK. There's also a growing international business, with stores and franchises in more than 30 countries.

The office:
The HQ is in Paddington Basin in central London, with other offices in Baker Street, Salford, Chester, and near Heathrow airport, where IT is based.

Is this you?
This year roughly 100 graduates are being recruited to in-store roles, which means selling and human resources. In addition 10 are being taken on at head office in IT, buying and merchandising, for which you'll have to have something directly relevant in your degree. All need "a passion for retail", which presumably means more than mere possession of the shopping gene.

The recruitment process:
Applications start online, at, and consist of verbal and numerical tests, plus what's called a "personality questionnaire". The next stage is a one-day assessment-centre, preceded, the night before, by a dinner hosted by a previous graduate. Those recruited to the retail scheme train for a year, while head-office posts take six months longer. Training is a mixture of classroom and on-the-job experience, plus two courses, entitled "personal and leadership excellence".

Top dollar?
Graduate starting salary is £21,000 plus £3,500 extra in London. In addition you get 20 per cent off M&S products, and subsidised catering.

Beam me up, Scotty?
Retail graduates usually head for a job as a commercial manager in a medium-sized store, or as HR Manager for a number of smaller stores. The next step is as a store manager, or a head office role.

Who's the boss?
Stuart Rose first joined M&S in 1972 in his early twenties. In the interim he's worked for Burton, Argos, Iceland and Arcadia. He's currently the chairman of the British Fashion Council.

Little known fact:
Marks remains a big hitter in the underwear world. At any one time, one in three British women is thought to be wearing an M&S bra.