Marks & Spencer is hiring 20,000 seasonal staff as the crucial Christmas trading season gets under way.

Marks & Spencer director of retail Steve Rowe said that last year more than 29m shoppers swarmed into his stores in the last week before Christmas so it is essential to have extra “friendly, motivated and enthusiastic” staff to help.

Last year 23% of the retailer’s graduate employees began as seasonal employees. Rose said: “We offer an excellent benefits package and all our new recruits take part in a two-day induction so that they are fully equipped to ensure our customers receive the best possible service.”

* Catalogue store group Argos will recruit about 12,000 Christmas staff this year, managing director Sara Weller said.