Marks and Spencer plc (also known as M&S) is a British retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London, with over 690 stores in the United Kingdom and over 320 owned and franchised stores in 41 other territories and specialises in the selling of clothing and luxury food products. M&S was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer.
In 1998 it became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of over £1 billion, though a few years later it plunged into a crisis which lasted for several years. In November 2009, it was announced that Marc Bolland, formerly of Morrisons, would take over as chief executive from Stuart Rose in early 2010; Rose will remain with the company until mid-2011.
It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The company was founded by a partnership between Michael Marks, a Litvak Jew from Slonim, Poland (now in Belarus), and Thomas Spencer, a cashier from Yorkshire. On his arrival in England, Marks worked for a company in Leeds, called Barran, which employed refugees (see Sir John Barran, 1st Baronet). In 1884 he met Isaac Dewhurst, the owner of a Leeds warehouse, which resulted in him opening his own stall on Kirkgate Market, in Leeds.