M&S to open 12 discount stores

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer is planning to open up to a dozen factory outlet stores in the UK as the struggling retailer seeks to shift excess stock more quickly and take advantage of the growing trend towards discount shopping. The stores will offer discounts of 30 to 50 per cent on high street prices.

Marks & Spencer is planning to open up to a dozen factory outlet stores in the UK as the struggling retailer seeks to shift excess stock more quickly and take advantage of the growing trend towards discount shopping. The stores will offer discounts of 30 to 50 per cent on high street prices.

M&S yesterday confirmed the locations of its first three discount stores, which will trade under the name Marks & Spencer Outlet. The first store will open in Ashford, Kent, in October with two more in Cheshire Oaks and Livingstone, Scotland, in November. All three will be part of factory outlet villages operated by BAA McArthur Glen.

The stores will concentrate on selling the end of season ranges or slow selling lines that would otherwise clutter up the group's stores and warehouses. They will mainly sell clothing and some gift items but not home furnishings.

M&S has denied the move into the discount sector will devalue its brand, saying rivals such as Next and Gap already operate cut price stores. Simon Goldstein, Director of Marks & Spencer Outlet, said: "The discount market is growing and shoppers are becoming ever more value conscious. This, coupled with our desire to manage our stock more effectively ... means outlets present a very viable and appropriate proposition for the business."

Separately, shares in N Brown, the mail order group, rose more than 10 per cent on market speculation that it was close to a delivery deal with M&S. N Brown operates a subsidiary called Zendor.com, which offers credit, call centre and delivery services to retailers and dot.com clients. Messages posted on internet bulletin boards suggested Zendor was close to a contract with M&S though both companies declined to confirm this. M&S shares also rose, closing 3.25p higher at 214p.

Meanwhile M&S's television advertising campaign, which features a size 16 naked woman running up a hill and shouting: "I'm normal", has received mixed reviews following its launch last week.

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