M&S to open stores in France



Marc Bolland, chief executive of M&S, has announced that the brand is going to expand to France. It is exploring ways to roll out the Simply Food food-only stores across the country through a franchising model.

But why, and can UK stores do well in France?

The roll-out

Bolland made the announcement in a meeting with investors. He said that sales of food in M&S's two stores in Paris had gone so well that it was in talks with people to run franchises elsewhere in France. The Simply Food brand is run as a franchise business in the UK, so it's not a massive stretch to replicate it in France.

He ran through a mixed bag of news from around the world - including disappointment from Ireland and Greece, and missed targets in China. However, the real star was France.

The firm returned to France in 2011, after a poorly-executed foray into the country was shut down in 2001. This time round things have been far more successful. When it returned, a survey in Le Figaro found that 80% of Parisians were glad to see it back.

In October last year it opened its first full-line Paris Store, over 6,900 square metres, including the company's first new food hall in Paris. Bolland said that traditional British food had gone down well in the store, but so had the firm's brand of fresh ready meals and salads.

He said that Simply Food would remain a western European brand because food needed to be delivered within 24 hours from food distribution centres in the UK.

Can it work?

It's easy to see why M&S is looking for overseas expansion. The stagnation on the UK high street means that if any company wants to grow it has to open new stores. The UK is a saturated market for M&S, so it needs to find success overseas. Given that its food has been a hit in France, this growth is a natural choice.

It's not the first UK retailer to seek success in France. You can find branches of Next, Debenhams and Clarks on French high streets.

However, success is not guaranteed. You only have to look at Tesco's decision to leave the country - both it's French brands and its Tesco brand in Calais -to see that not every British retailer finds success there. M&S itself already has experience of failure in France. And Britain is know renowned for it's great cuisine among the French.

But what do you think? Will it be a success? Let us know in the comments.