Marks and Spencer to return to French retail market

Parisians pass by an M&S store in Paris on opening day 1994
Image caption M&S is heading back to Paris

Marks and Spencer has announced it is to re-enter the French retail market, 10 years after shutting down its stores in western Europe.

The company said it would open a 15,000 square foot store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris later this year.

M&S also said it was in talks with its partner SSP to launch a number of its Simply Food stores, under franchise, in Paris.

The retailer is also planning to launch an international online service.

M&S closed all its European stores in 2001 in order to focus on its core UK business.

"Marks and Spencer has great brand awareness here in France and a place in customers' hearts," said Marc Bolland, Marks and Spencer's chief executive.

The new French store and website are expected to open ahead of the Christmas trading period.

Local knowledge

Analysts say it makes sense for the retailer to look outside the difficult UK market. Retailers such as Dixons and Mothercare have issued profit warnings this year as government cuts and rising inflation deter consumers from spending.

"They seem to be going into the market in a more sensible fashion, adapting to the local market environment, which is something M&S has been criticised for in the past," said analyst Kate Calvert at brokerage Seymour Pierce.

"This is something that's building up for the longer-term growth of the business. But they have rather a lot to do in the UK to address short-term issues," she added.

M&S is the UK's largest clothing retailer with a significant presence in the food market.

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