Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Company Archive.


Curriculum Links

  • KS3/4 Cross-Curricular
This resource could be used in a number of subject areas including those listed below. It could support the teaching of topics about  business or  consumerism, or be used as the basis for a  literacy or  design project. Also links to:   Maths (understanding decimalisation / change from one numerical system to another) and  History timelines.
  • Geography
  • Design & Technology / Product Design
  • PHSE
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • Art & Design

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of the innovative development of department stores in the 1930s
  • Understanding of how the new stores changed the shopping experience for customers
  • Improved  skills of looking at archive photos to recognise the differences between then and now
See below for ways in which the material in this resource can be used with different subjects, as prompts for discussion and extension activities.

Discussion Ideas

KS3/4 Cross-Curricular
  • How do you know you are in an M&S store? Describe who and what you'd expect to see.  
  • Which shops do you think are up to date and modern?
  • How do you like to shop? Do you wander around looking/ browsing? Or do you rush in and out choosing quickly?
  • What do you know about the old money system?
  • Do you know when decimalisation took place?
  • In the Resources section look at the image of the black and white window display (what is known as visual merchandising now). Can you see any prices on the displays? What do you notice about them?
  • Debate the pros and cons of ' shopping as a leisure activity'. Think about the benefits of shopping e.g. the value to the economy, individual and community, and also about the  negative aspects e.g. highlights inequality, can be addictive, can lead to over consumption and waste.

Activity Ideas

KS3/4 Cross-Curricular
  • Work as a team and invent a market stall for the next school fair, to raise money for a local charity or to raise money for your school
    - Invent / list items to sell
    - Create your brand
    - Plan your tasks in a timeline, then share out the tasks according to the different skills and interests of each team member.
  • Television sometimes uses department stores as settings for dramas. Write an outline for a TV drama based in a department store or supermarket. Think about what jobs there are in big shops e.g. managers, sales assistants, van drivers, shelf packers, security staff and window dressers. Decide whether it will be feature-length or a series, and who the audience will be (family, adult, teenage or children), and where in the world it is set.
  • Imagine you live in the 1930s and you are applying for a job you've seen advertised as either a Sales Assistant or a Manager in one of the new M&S department stores. Write a letter of application saying why you'd like the job and why you think you would be good at it. 
  • Find out what the prices of goods in the shop window display would cost today by using the link below.


Decimalisation - change over from old British money to a system based on units of 10
Window dressing - what is known today as visual merchandising, making window displays attractive to customers