Spirit of Radice lives on as M&S launches Home store

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer's ill-fated Lifestore project may have been axed when Stuart Rose, the new chief executive, unveiled his blueprint for the retailer's future three weeks ago, but its spirit lived on yesterday when the group pressed ahead with the opening of a home furnishings store in south-west London.

Marks & Spencer's ill-fated Lifestore project may have been axed when Stuart Rose, the new chief executive, unveiled his blueprint for the retailer's future three weeks ago, but its spirit lived on yesterday when the group pressed ahead with the opening of a home furnishings store in south-west London.

This time round, there were no glitzy Gucci-esque logoed banners to shield the store from the gaze of a hungry public. The ignominy of Marks' £15m disaster in Gateshead, where it opened its first - and last - Lifestore in March, was such that the launch was deliberately low key.

Sneak previews of the group's biggest home offering outside Gateshead were limited to a pre-opening night invitation for M&S cardholders in and around Kingston-upon-Thames. A marked contrast to the week-long festivities that heralded the arrival of the Gateshead store, although about 5,000 curious shoppers checked it out yesterday.

Although Vittorio Radice, the flamboyant Italian whom Mr Rose took just weeks to sack, is out of the picture, the Kingston store bears his hallmark in the form of the five "concept" zones he invented to encourage custoers to browse. All the products were designed while he was at the helm. The biggest change is the store's name: Your M&S Home. At 30,000sq ft, the store is about half the size of Gateshead.

Anxious to avoid the 30 per cent sales plunge in Gateshead, Maurice Helfgott has made the Kingston site more shoppable. He has made a start on Mr Rose's edict of giving more prominence to the division's core strengths of bath, bed, cookware, kitchenware and glass by ensuring Cook is the first section you encounter.

Steve Sharp, who joined Mr Rose to shake up Marks' marketing and store design, said: "Kingston has the contemporary feel of Gateshead but is much more accessible."

M&S predicted that home furnishing should add £20m to the annual profits it expects to achieve this year.

Nick Bubb, at Evolution Beeson Gregory, said: "Of course the priority for M&S is to get its clothing right, but homewares have a role to play in the future profits recovery of the group and we hope the Kingston approach is the way forward for those stores with big home departments."

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