45. Marks and Spencer

M&S – A staple of the high street, most cities have one, most of us have visited this shop (in Geography terms… frequently located at the peak value land intersection as the have a high threshold population and in Plymouth it is the anchor of Drake’s Circus shopping mall).

I had emailed the CEO in May

“Dear Mr Rowe,
I’m Fiona Osmaston and am currently recovering from Breast Cancer.  I’ve had great treatment at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, particularly with the Primrose Clinic.  As part of my recovery I’ve joined a group called “Bosom Pals”.  This is a group of women who have all had breast cancer and they meet once a month to offer friendship and support to each other in the Plymouth area.  We have all been really impressed with the supportive nature of the bra and lingerie department in Marks and Spencer in Plymouth’s city centre – the ladies there are very helpful and it is such a relief to have a choice of post surgery bras which are affordable and attractive. 
One of the “Bosom Pals” ladies, Sally , felt it was poor that the women who took part in the Full Real Monty: Ladies night were paid £10,000 each and only raised £4,000 for Breast Cancer Charities (https://www.standard.co.uk/stayingin/tvfilm/itv-defends-paying-stars-of-the-real-full-monty-ladies-night-10000-each-a3812061.html)
As a result the Bosom Pals group has decided to run a Ball in September…. and a group of the ladies are starting a training programme on 2nd June to learn a dance and “dare to bare” at the Ball.  The group is a very diverse group of women – I’m an Assistant Vice Principal in a local secondary school, some are retired – one is 72, some run businesses, one is a funeral director.  Our common bond is surviving and fighting breast cancer and wanting to do a better job than the women on ITV for a clinic which has helped us. 
 We are being choreographed by a local business women,  who is donating her time and expertise.  We are fund raising for the Primrose Clinic and hope to at least match if not exceed what the other group raised.   We start our training on 2nd of June at Fort Stamford (who have kindly donated a training space) and the Ball is going to be at the Duke of Cornwall hotel on 21st September.  Our local BBC  television station has expressed an interest in the story.  I wondered if Marks and Spencer would like to be involved as well – there are 9 ladies of a variety of shapes and sizes who will “dare to bare” and some M&S lingerie would be amazing.  I appreciate this is a big ask in the current financial climate – but if one doesn’t ask – one doesn’t get!  I attach a copy of the ticket for your information.
With kind regards,
Fiona Osmaston”
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To be honest I didn’t expect any sort of response as CEO’s of multinational companies are usually too busy.  However, I received and email from the Executive Team which explained that they supported a variety of charities and were inundated with charity requests…. yet our story had hit a nerve and they’d be in touch.
So they were… Alison from the Executive Office got back to me and said that M&S were going to sponsor us with Bras and could I please pop into the Plymouth branch and meet the manager.
So one Sunday morning I met with the Lingerie Manager who introduced me to the team and the store manager.  Over coffee she told me that not only were they going to measure us and fit us for Bras but they were going to sort us with knickers too and… have an evening event for the dancers including the fitting, drinks, nibbles and a bit of a makeover.
Their kindness and compassion was a bit overwhelming.  About the same time the Plymouth branch had been nominated for the Chairman’s award so I was asked to pop down again and say a few words to camera about why they should win… they really did deserve to win.
Public relations were also starting to come together.  I use twitter and so does the Primrose Foundation.  Although we’d sold all the tickets we were still interested in sponsorship, raffle prizes and getting our story heard.
M&S use a PR/Media company called Graylings.  One of them contacted me for a more details – how were we all diagnosed, what sort of treatment we’d received, how M&S had helped us finding decent, comfortable and attractive post surgery bras.  Graylings put all of this together and wrote a press released.. which has been well scrutinised by all parties – M&S, the dancers, the Primrose foundation and has been released.
Tip:  Never be afraid to ask… if you don’t ask, you don’t get… be genuine. 

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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