M&S planning overseas expansion

M&S store in France M&S plans to open 20 food outlets in Paris

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Marks and Spencer has announced plans to open 250 stores abroad and increase international profits by 40% over the next three years.

The UK retailer is planning to open stores in markets such as France, India, Russia, China and the Middle East.

The expansion includes 20 food outlets in Paris and lingerie and beauty stores in the Middle East and India.

M&S has reported falling sales in its key UK clothing and homewares unit.

Like-for-like sales at the unit fell 2.1% in the three months to the end of December, the 10th successive drop in quarterly sales. It is scheduled to give its latest sales update next week.

'Dotcom ready'

M&S retreated from mainland Europe in 2001, triggering protests from customers and staff.

The new expansion move will see a "bricks and clicks" approach, with flagship stores backed by an online offering.

Chief executive Marc Bolland told an investor seminar in Paris: "We need to build a brand internationally and be dotcom ready. That is where our future is."

In a statement, 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."

Steve Rowe, M&S executive director of food, said: "M&S Food is in much demand globally. From toasted crumpets in The Hague to red wine in China, our international customers are very quick to tell us what their favourite M&S products are."

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