Marks, Simon

(Lord Marks of Broughton)
   British merchant and Zionist Simon Marks was a brilliant innovator in retail business. He and his associate, Israel SIEFF, gave a new dignity and status to the traditional figure of the Jewish trader.
   Simon Marks’s father, Michael, arrived in England in 1882 as a poor immigrant from Russian Poland, and started as a pedlar in Leeds. Graduating to a stall in the market-place, he developed within ten years a chain of ‘penny bazaars’ in the Midlands towns. In 1894, he took into partnership a jovial Yorkshireman called Tom Spencer, who paid Ј300 for a half-share in the new firm of Marks and Spencer. By the time Michael Marks died in 1907, at the early age of forty-four, the firm already owned sixty-one branches. The family was then living in Manchester, where Simon was born. He entered the business at the age of twenty-one, after his father’s death. Three years later, he was joined by Israel Sieff, at first on a part-time basis. The two men had been school-mates at Manchester Grammar School; they married each other’s sisters, remained lifelong friends and formed a remarkable business team for the next half-century. After World War I, with Marks as chairman, the company expanded rapidly into a national chain, and developed the special features that made it a pioneer in modern merchandizing. Marks grasped the radical change in the popular market brought about in post-war Britain by the crumbling of class barriers, the gradual emergence of a welfare state and the beginnings of a more affluent society. The aim of ‘M & S’ was maximum value at popular prices. This was achieved by strict control of quality and design at the factory end, research and testing of new products, the streamlining of sales procedures, personal attention to detail by the directors, and a human concern for the welfare of the staff. In 1944 Simon was knighted, particularly for his service to the wartime Scientific Co-ordination Committee. He was created a baron in 1961. Zionism was a major interest in Simon Marks’s life. Before World War I he was one of the Manchester group of young Zionists that gathered round Dr WEIZMANN, then a relatively unknown lecturer in chemistry at Manchester University. Other members of the group were his future brothers-in-law Israel Sieff and Harry SACHER. During the war, he assisted Dr Weizmann in the efforts that led to the BALFOUR Declaration, and served as honorary secretary to the Zionist delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Up to his death, he remained a leader of Zionist work and fund-raising in Britain, and was keenly involved in the economic development of Israel. In Britain he was a generous and thoughtful philanthropist, particularly to his old school, to University College, London, and to the Royal College of Surgeons.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Marks, Simon — (1888 1964)    English industrialist and philanthropist. He was born in Manchester. He became chairman of the board of Marks and Spencer Ltd chainstores in 1917. He was an active Zionist and served as secretary of the Zionist delegation to the… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • MARKS, SIMON, BARON — (1888–1964), British businessman, philanthropist, and Zionist. Born in Leeds, Simon Marks was the son of Michael Marks, who emigrated in 1882 from Russia to the U.K. where he began as a peddler. In 1884 he opened a market stall in Leeds and later …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Marks — noun English businessman who created a retail chain (1888 1964) • Syn: ↑Simon Marks, ↑First Baron Marks of Broughton • Instance Hypernyms: ↑businessman, ↑man of affairs * * * plural of mark present third singular of …   Useful english dictionary

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