Marks and Spencer gets taste for further expansion, as 'biscuits and jams prove popular among Parisians'

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The Independent Online

Marks and Spencer has revealed it is in talks to launch standalone Simply Food stores in France, buoyed by the performance of its two new shops across the Channel.

The high street bellwether is speaking to potential franchise partners about food-only stores in France and is also considering opening Simply Food in other European countries.

M&S returned to France after a long absence by opening a combined clothing and food store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris in November 2011 and followed it with another in the city's So Ouest area last year.

Marc Bolland, the chief executive of M&S since May 2010, said its "British style" biscuits and jams were proving popular among Parisians, as were its ready meals. He said: "We expected it (food) to be good but not so good. We are looking into Simply Food and we are particularly looking at Paris and one or two other locations."

Beyond France, he added that it was also considering one or two other countries for Simply Food in the long-term. While he was cautious on profit forecasts for the Champs Elysees' store, which has incurred start-up costs, M&S said the So Ouest store would be profitable inside two years. Both are trading ahead of expectations.

Its strong return to France is a fillip for the retailer, which suffered a 3.8 per cent fall in UK clothing and homewares sales in its third quarter.

Speaking on an analyst trip to Istanbul, Turkey, Mr Bolland denied it had been "hesitant" in rolling out stores in mainland China around Shanghai. He said it will open two more this year to give it 16 in Greater Shanghai and would then evaluate the best model for China before continuing its expansion there.