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Mark Alexander, Managing Director of Benchmark Retail Services Ltd, receives and ‘Oarsome’ Award

Published: 6 July 2020 - Neil Mead

The Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on all areas of life but the experience of lockdown has been different for everyone. To the benefit of the sector, many turned to DIY to fill the extra time at home but with stores closed for all but essential products, Benchmark Retail Services found themselves without any merchandising work and had to mothball the business until retail stores could open fully again.


Benchmark’s MD, Mark Alexander began his career in sales in 1983 but when a friend set up a bus company that year and needed some additional drivers, Mark helped out by obtaining his bus licence and driving ‘Seaside Specials’ at weekends. More recently Mark’s bus driving has been limited to volunteering at the London Bus Museum at Brooklands, driving old buses for the public to enjoy. That was until he was asked to help out driving for rail replacement services. 

While passenger are numbers low, rail companies are repairing and improving lines and many weekend services are being replaced with buses, creating more demand for drivers at a time when some of these key workers are unable to drive due to shielding requirements. 

So, most Sundays Mark can be found driving a bus replacing Southern and Southwestern Rail routes and has been enjoying the experience of driving more modern buses.  He was, however, surprised and delighted to receive an email announcing that his efforts had achieved an award.

Jolyon Marshall who heads the eponymous Recruitment Consultancy working mainly in the Watch and Jewellery sector, observed that several seasoned Watch and Jewellery trade names had seized initiatives above and beyond their respective 'day jobs', and were out in the community making a real difference. Being based close to Henley-on-Thames – home of The River & Rowing Museum – Jolyon felt that these individuals’ efforts could be neatly described as Oarsome! Thus, the once-in-a-lifetime “You’re Oarsome” commendation was born. In total four awards were presented, with Mark being the only recipient outside the Watch and Jewellery sector.

The unique trophies are in the shape of 6ft Oars, featuring the name and respective accomplishment of each individual during lockdown with strikingly designed graphics.

Jolyon commented: “These awards represent so much that I value: an inner pro-activity, a willingness to serve others at a time of national need and the embodiment of a long-held belief that individuals really can and do make all the difference in any situation.”

Mark stated “Like many thousands I signed up for the volunteering service initiative but got no traction so looked for other opportunities to do something worthwhile. I never thought my old licence would be so useful but I’m delighted to have combined having great fun behind the wheel with providing a valuable service. Benchmark is back in business now which is fantastic but for as long as I’m needed, I will continue driving too.“

Benchmark Retail Services Ltd provides valuable, measurable in-store marketing services for suppliers and retailers across the UK. The management team bring 50 years commercial experience to the business enabling services to be shaped to suit specific client needs, targeting the best outlets and engaging with regional management to increase brand awareness and drive sales.

Services include:

  • Merchandising
  • Secondary Product Siting
  • Demonstrations
  • Audit and compliance
  • Promotions
  • Seasonal events
  • Training
  • POS management

Benchmark – “the standard by which others are measured”

For more information visit


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