M&S close to securing more stores in Paris

Now the retailer has set its sights on an outlet beneath the capital's most famous art gallery...

Marks & Spencer is stepping up its European expansion. It is currently involved in talks to secure more stores in Paris and is close to agreeing a deal in the Netherlands.

The company confirmed it was re-entering Paris earlier this year, after a 10-year gap. It will open stores in the French capital and service the rest of the country via the internet.

The retailer is negotiating to open at Le Carrousel du Louvre – the underground shopping centre beneath the museum, accessible through the glass pyramid – and in shopping centres in Villeneuve-la-Garenne and So Ouest in Levallois-Perret. These are middle-class inner suburbs a few miles to the north and north-west of Paris, respectively.

The company is also thought to be seeking sites in Carre Sénart and Les Quatre Temps, in La Défense, Paris's equivalent to Canary Wharf. M&S had a store in the latter location in its previous attempt to crack France. In the Netherlands, it is looking to open in The Hague.

M&S confirmed its plans in April to re-enter France, starting with a 15,000 sq ft womenswear and food store on the Champs-Élysées.

It plans up to five company-owned shops selling clothing and food in Paris, plus Simply Food stores operated by its franchise partner SSP.

In London, it has started a trial of a convenience food store at Baker Street Tube. The outlet will be called M&S Food on the Move and opens this week.

M&S will this week update the market on its half-year results. The pre-tax profit forecast for the first half of 2011 is £311m, down on last year's £349m. Broker Charles Stanley forecasts that earnings per share will slide to 15.1p from 16.6p. The interim dividend could remain at 6.2p.

Experts believe that M&S clothing sales will have struggled, despite a new advertising campaign featuring models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Ryan Reynolds and David Gandy.

Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, said: "Late summer has clearly been tough, and there will be much interest in whether Marks & Spencer has lost share or not in the clothing market."

But it is thought that its food sales will have been stronger.

Sam Hart, an analyst at Charles Stanley, said: "Marks & Spencer's chief executive, Marc Bolland, is expected to provide an update on the three-year strategic plan that he outlined last year. Key areas of focus include: improving the in-store environment; strengthening both the core M&S and sub-brands in clothing; more fully exploiting the opportunity in homewares; developing the online and expanding the international [business]; and completing the modernisation of the supply chain and IT systems."

Marks & Spencer unveiled its new store look in September, including new layouts, lines of clothing and food areas, such as the deli in its store on High Street Kensington. It plans to roll this out to other stores.

Morrisons supermarket chain will reveal its third-quarter trading update this week and is expected to report a 2.2 per cent rise in like-for-like sales, with most analysts predicting growth for the Bradford-based business. Morrisons, pushing its own-brand food, has introduced M Kitchen – its own brand of ready meals developed by in-house chefs. It is introducing new lines across its food ranges from bread and cakes to ready meals.

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