Strong sales of crumpets, tea cakes and digestive biscuits in Paris has given Marks & Spencer the confidence to step up its expansion across Europe 13 years after it shut up shop across the Channel.
Marks & Spencer yesterday unveiled plans for 250 more shops globally in the next three years, with a focus on food shops. Speaking in Paris, two and a half years after returning to the city, its chief executive Marc Bolland revealed details of 20 more food shops in Paris alongside a franchised food business.
Mr Bolland said: "Our strategy of becoming an international, multi-channel retailer is more relevant than ever before because of the strong growth potential of international markets."
The group is now planning stores in Amsterdam and Brussels, after recently opening a store in the Hague. It is also looking at possible flagship and food stores in Milan, Madrid and Barcelona.
Marc Bolland defended the group's decision to go back into Europe after closing down more than 10 years ago. He said: "Previously, regional stores didn't work. In the past we traded less food, there was no internet and we didn't have our flagship store strategy."
The group said its international stores will be profitable in three years, with Western European sales expected to reach £250m.
M&S is also looking to open 100 stores in India over the next two years and is evaluating expanding with franchise or joint venture partners into China's regions. It already has 15 stores in Hong Kong and 15 in Shanghai.
Of the 250 new stores which were announced yesterday, 60 per cent of them will be franchised, and the company expects to increase international revenues by 25 per cent. In three years it has expanded from 337 stores to 455 shops in 53 territories and nine local websites. Its online push has been led by Laura Wade-Gery, M&S's e-commerce executive director.
M&S’ international expansion will relieve investors but the main focus remains on its UK business which makes up 83 per cent of its group profits. It is under pressure to improve sales in its UK clothing business. It will update investors on its multi-channel website strategy on May 1 and all eyes will be on its full year results on May 20.