M&S continues tech push with world's first Retail Data Academy

Marks & Spencer is working with Decoded, a tech company, to teach over 1,000 employees data science skills in its latest bid to transform itself into a digital first retailer.


CEO Steve Rowe said transformation is key to M&S' survival - Photo: Marks & Spencer

The plan is to create the world’s first Data Academy in retail, with an 18 month in-work programme teaching participants how to harness the most cutting-edge data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python” and adopt technologies such as machine learning.

Employees from every function of retail, from store managers and visual merchandisers to finance and buying, will be invited to enrol in the programme, which will be fully funded by Government’s Apprenticeship Levy.

Additionally, senior executives will embark on a data leadership programme to help them “get hands-on” with new technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence with the aim of leading digital transformation across the business.

The initiative is part of several partnerships Marks & Spencer has announced in recent weeks as part of its tech push, including a partnership with Microsoft to test AI-driven technologies in the retail environment and a joint venture with Founders Factory to support retail tech start-ups.

Steve Rowe, chief executive said: “This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date and the creation of the M&S Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a Data Analytics qualification.

“Transformation of our business is key to survival and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.”

The British retailer is in a race to transform itself into a tech-driven company after seeing its pre/tax profit fall by 5.4% in the year to 31 March 2018 with flat revenues of £10.7 billion.

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