Sales crisis forces M&S to abandon plans to open Brooks Brothers stores in Britain

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer has abandoned plans to bring its American Brooks Brothers fashion chain to Britain.

Marks & Spencer has abandoned plans to bring its American Brooks Brothers fashion chain to Britain.

The climbdown comes exactly a year after M&S announced grand plans to expand Brooks Brothers internationally and said it was actively looking for sites in London. At the time it also said it would sell Brooks Brothers' upmarket "preppy" style of clothing though its home shopping catalogues and via the internet.

But the continued crisis at M&S in this country and the poor recent performance by Brooks Brothers in the United States has forced the fallen giant into a U-turn. The company now says its priority is to improve its core UK business.

"At this stage we are focusing on our existing UK operations rather than bringing our US brands over here," a spokesman confirmed. The company said it still had confidence in the brand and believes it has international appeal. However, such is the pressure to sort out the problems in the UK the company feels an expansion of Brooks Brothers would be an unnecessary distraction.

One M&S insider said it was a mistake to have ever made the announcement in the first place. "There was no chance Brooks Brothers could have made money in London. The property prices are just too high."

Earlier this year, M&S shelved a five-year plan to open 100 new, large Brooks Brothers stores in the US. Instead it said it would concentrate on turning round its existing 150 outlets, which have been hit by trends towards more casual dressing.

In March, M&S signed an agreement with an Italian partner to open Brooks Brothers stores in Italy, Austria and Switzerland, though the first stores have yet to open.

Brooks Brothers had a poor year last year, with profits falling from £12.4m to £7.9m due to costs associated with expansion and huge markdowns on unwanted goods.

Meanwhile, M&S's UK clothing sales are still believed to be weak. The shares fell again yesterday after initial hopes faded that Allan Leighton, who quit as head of Wal-Mart Europe on Wednesday, might join M&S as chief executive. They closed 3p lower at 214.5p.

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