‘I’m no ordinary gardener’: M&S boss swaps West End for the east because of Covid
PUBLISHED: 13:57 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:57 01 October 2020
(C) Archant 2020
A Norfolk manager who landed his dream job at the UK’s biggest M&S has started a gardening firm after redundancy.
Paul Rich, 51, who lives in King’s Lynn, has ditched the corporate suits for overalls after going self-employed after running a team of 60. Despite working in retail for more than 35 years and climbing the corporate ladder all the way to boss menswear at M&S in Marble Arch, he decided to give it all up because of Covid, accepting voluntary redundancy.
But although the job couldn’t be more different, he’s applying all the same principles he’s learned about customer service since cutting his teeth as a shop assistant after leaving college in outfitters Hatters in Norwich. And what is the biggest gamble of his career is paying off, having secured some big contracts.
“In M&S in Marble Arch, 70pc of customers were visitors so once the theatres and the big hotels closed because of coronavirus, it decimated business.
“I went to run a Simply Food in Chelsea for a while and then when they put me on furlough, I thought, like everyone, it was only going to be for a couple of weeks.”
But as Covid worsened, six months on, M&S offered him voluntary redundancy amid axing 7,000 jobs.
“Did it come at the right time? I’m 51, and my M&S pension wasn’t enough to retire on, and I’ve worked in retail all my working life, so it was a big step. A lot of people are facing this, it was a tough decision and to say goodbye to all the financial benefits. It was a big leap.”
Mr Rich had managed M&S stores across the region, in King’s Lynn and Lowestoft as well as Peterborough before he got a shot in the capital.“I miss the customers and the support of a management team but retail has been hit so hard. But actually I have lovely customers and Covid is causing us to go back to basics.
“My dad was head of Holt Hall, situated in 75 acres, so I grew up on a ride-on mower, the head gardener was always showing me how to trim hedges and really inspired me. I’ve always done my garden at home and my mum’s so I set up Holt Gardening Services and in fact I can apply all the same customer service I’ve learned in retail. It’s about turning up on time, making sure you email the before and after pics of what you’ve done, offering a good service.
“I’m certainly no ordinary gardener.”
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