M&S may outsource its internet sales to Amazon

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The Independent Online

Marks &Amp; Spencer is considering outsourcing its online retail operations in an attempt to free up more management time to turn around its troubled high street business.

Marks & Spencer is considering outsourcing its online retail operations in an attempt to free up more management time to turn around its troubled high street business.

The group is talking to a number of interested parties, thought to include Amazon, the US internet retailer that already handles all of the book retailer Waterstone's online sales.

M&S customers who cannot face the thought of trudging round one of its shops can buy most of the group's product via the web. A group spokeswoman yesterday said the site was "an important channel for us and it would be sensible to look at anything that would enhance it".

The retailer is in the midst of a shake-up led by its new chief executive, Stuart Rose, who has promised to concentrate on the company's core high street estate. He has already scaled back initiatives such the Lifestore home furnishings venture.

The spokeswoman stressed that talks to outsource its internet site were at an early stage. "The site operates well so there is nothing hanging over our heads to force us to do anything quickly," she said. The group does not split out how much of its £8bn annual sales go via its internet site, although Hitwise, an industry monitor, ranks it ahead of rivals such as John Lewis, Littlewoods and Debenhams in terms of the interest it generates.

Amazon declined to comment on the status of its talks with M&S, but is known to be keen for its UK arm to add to its contract with Waterstones. In the US Amazon has partnership agreements with the Target retail chain and Borders, the book-to-DVD retailer. Its partnership with Toys"R"Us has been less fruitful, however, and the pair are battling out their differences in court.

M&S customers can browse all of the retailer's main collections via its website. However last night a fault meant it was impossible to buy anything online - further frustrating the company's already shrinking fanbase. The retailer does not sell food online - potentially presenting it with an opportunity to revive flagging sales of its food, analysts said.

The company is scheduled to reveal how it fared over the summer early next month, giving investors the chance to decide whether to take up a tender offer. Earlier this week, Yasmin Yusuf, its creative director, became the latest in a string of directors to leave the group under Mr Rose's new regime.

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