April 9, 2014, 12:01 PM

Marks & Spencer unveils ambitious global plans

The U.K. –based department store chain aims to grow international sales by 25% and profits by 40%. It plans to focus on China, India, Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe.

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U.K.-based department store chain Marks & Spencer better have its passport in order if it wants to complete the major international expansion plans it has for the next three years.

The retailer, No. 18 in the Europe 500 announced this month at an investor meeting a blueprint for international expansion that includes building 250 new stores, growing its food business and increasing its franchise operations. It plans to focus on China, India, Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe.

The company plans to sell online in those regions, build flagship stores in major cities, and open more M&S Food stores, the company said in a statement. Its goal is to grow international sales by 25% and profits by 40%.

“Our strategy of becoming an international, multichannel retailer is more relevant than ever before because of the strong growth potential of international markets,” says Marc Bolland, CEO.

In Western Europe it plans to open 20 standalone M&S Food stores in Paris over the next three years, which will make Paris the retailer’s largest food market outside of the U.K., the company says.  

“M&S food is in much demand globally,” says Steve Rowe, executive director of food. “From toasted crumpets in The Hague to red wine in China, our international customers are very quick to tell us what their favorite M&S products are. This is why expanding our fresh food offer presents us with a strong growth opportunity.”

The retailer is also partnering with SFH Invest to open Marks & Spencer Food stores at street locations in Paris. The first three stores under the franchise agreement will open this summer, Marks & Spencer says. It will also open two of its own independent food stores in Paris this summer.

In October, Marks & Spencer announced a franchise deal with Relay France to open 10 Marks & Spencer Food stores at popular travel locations in and around Paris by 2018. The first 700 square-meter will open in the beginning of June.

“We’re putting M&S Food on the map over the next five years,” Rowe says. “Western Europe is our focus and finding the right partners and locations is vital to the success of our plan to have the optimal food store portfolio in this time.”

 Marks & Spencer also plans to expand in the Middle East by doubling its franchise business with Al-Futtaim Group. The group now operates 46 Marks & Spencer stores in the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar, as well as in Malaysia and Singapore via its Robinsons subsidiary. Al Futtaim opened seven Marks & Spencer stores in the region in the past year, including a 6,690-square-meter flagship store in Kuwait and a 3,650-square-meter flagship store in Egypt. Marks & Spencer also entered Lebanon and Jordan for the first time this past year through its franchise deal with Al Futtaim.

Marks & Spencer’s 2012 web sales totaled $1.15 billion according to Internet Retailer estimates, up 11.6% from $1.03 billion a year earlier. 

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