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M&S takes wraps off new store design

MARKS & SPENCER unveiled another element of its recovery strategy yesterday when it took the wraps off a new store design in the City of London. The store on Finsbury Pavement near Liverpool Street station only opened four years ago but has been given a major facelift to give it a brighter, more modern look.

The design will be used as the prototype in a pounds 31m programme to upgrade the 25 largest M&S department stores by early next year. A further 100 high street branches will receive certain elements of the makeover by the end of the month.

James Benfield, marketing director, said: "Our research showed that customers wanted stores brought up to date. They wanted them to be easier to shop, with better layouts. But this is the first chapter in a new book. It is not a complete solution."

The upgrade includes a store layout based on a US-style grid system, with garments arranged in blocks rather than long lines of racking. Clothing has been put together in collections rather than purely by product category. Till points have brighter designs, and dark brown fittings have been replaced by a Habitat-style beech look.

On the service front, M&S has pushed more staff on to the shop floor. Last week it created 600 specialist advisers, who will wear distinctive uniforms and be based in departments like footwear and suits.

A number of US retail ideas have also been adopted. These include "meeters and greeters" at the store entrance who will be equipped with two way radios to communicate with other staff.

The changes are being made as M&S stores start selling the group's new Autumn Collection. Mr Benfield said trading was showing "encouraging signs".

Outlook, page 17