Casablanca's M&S store opens for business

Istanbul

Marks & Spencer is to open its first Moroccan store today in Casablanca, in the latest leg of its international expansion.

The high street bellwether also revealed it has launched an e-commerce site in China through a major third-party and was planning to launch an own-language website in Russia, as part of its plans to become a "multi-channel international" retailer.

M&S will open its store in Casablanca through its franchise partner in the region, Supermarkets 1960. Marc Bolland, the chief executive of M&S, cited the rapid development of "sophisticated" malls in cities such as Casablanca and Marrakesh.

Mr Bolland said: "Now is the time to go there, not in five years' time."

The growth of M&S's international business is set against falling general merchandise sales in the UK. Its clothing and homewares sales fell 3.8 per cent in its third quarter. M&S has 412 stores overseas and is targeting rapid expansion in countries such as India, where it plans to add 50 outlets to its existing 30 over the next three years.

On the web, the group has six foreign language websites, including its fledgling Chinese site that launched in December. In addition to the 14 shops it has in China, M&S is now selling online via Tmall, the country's biggest e-commerce site. The group also plans to launch on the web in Russia this year through Fiba, its store franchise partner in the country, Turkey and Ukraine.

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