Aged 16, John Woods started as a trolley boy at the newly opened Sainsbury store in Rushmere back in the late 1990s and now he has just been appointed manager of new M&S store in Craigavon.
Now 37, John is firmly rooted in the north Armagh community, a family man living and now working locally.
He grew up in Pinebank, the son of Portadown man Jim Woods and mum Veronica Tighe from Ardmore/Derryadd and was inspired by his uncle Malachy Tighe - a well-known breadman from Derrytrasna.
Educated at St Anthony’s PS and St Michael’s Grammar, he then attended University of Glasgow studying Retail Management.
John said he felt the retail industry was in his blood. “I remember following my Uncle Malachy everywhere when he was on the bread runs,” he said.
“I always enjoyed retail and always said I wanted to do it. I was inspired also by Mike Williams who was the store manager at Sainsbury’s in Craigavon. He told me that he had started out as a trolley boy and worked his way up.”
When John came home from university in 2006, he joined Lisburn’s M&S via their Graduate Programme.
After a couple of years he went to Armagh M&S when it opened in 2008 and then after he went to the Omagh branch.
Another role with the firm included project managing the digitalising the systems within M&S.
He spent time in Newry M&S and then back to the Lisburn branch before landing at the Belfast M&S for its 50th anniversary. It was there he learned about the opening of the Craigavon store. “When I got the job I thought Christmas had come early. Going back to that trolley boy, that is what I have always wanted.”
Married to Jennifer, he lives with their two children Daniel (3) and Lucy (7) in Derryadd. Jenny is a special needs teacher at Ceara School and John is delighted that two pupils will be helping to open the new store on October 4.
He is also pleased that staff at the store voted to help redecorate the counselling room at Mount Zion for PIPS. And he revealed that M&S plan to donate products nearing their sell-by date to the Chrysalis Centre in Craigavon for redistribution.
“We are planning to be very much immersed in our community. It will be as much about the community as it is the store,” said John, who is a keen golfer when he gets a chance. And, in between work and family life, he plans on continuing to watch Glenavon and Spurs play football.