UK retailer MARKS AND SPENCER is considering opening stand-alone Simply Food stores in western Europe.

M&S, which is still looking to open the food-only convenience outlets in France, where it has two department stores, has indicated it could also expand into other markets on the Continent.

Speaking to just-food, the company confirmed comments made by chief executive Marc Bolland at investor conference yesterday in Istanbul.

Bolland said M&S, which has department stores in central Europe, as well as Greece and Turkey, would only look at opening Simply Food stores in western Europe.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Bolland said M&S would only open stores to which it could deliver food from its UK distribution centres within 24 hours. “It has to be same-day delivery. That is critical.”

M&S returned to France in November 2011 with a store in Paris, a decade after quitting the market. Bolland then said the retailer was in talks to open Simply Food stores in France and hoped to announce details within 18 months.

M&S said today there was no timetable on when it could open Simply Food outlets in France. However, the company said it was looking at “strategic locations, such as transport hubs”.

The retailer said it believed the Simply Food format, launched in the UK in 2001, could be a success in France due to the “strong demand” in its two Paris stores for its food products.

M&S’s two-day investor conference in Istanbul, which continues today, focuses on its plans for its international business.

The retailer’s stores outside the UK, which predominantly sell non-food products, generated GBP1.1bn (US$1.72bn) in sales in its 2011/12 financial year.

The company has 412 stores outside the UK in Europe and markets including Russia, the Middle East and China.

It sells some ambient food products in markets including China, where there has been speculation its sales have missed targets.

M&S refused to be drawn on the speculation about the financial performance of its 14 Chinese stores, which are all in Shanghai.

However, it added: “We will continue to open wholly owned stores over the next three years to take us to between 15 and 20 stores and we will then take stock of the business, i.e. where we go next in terms of the business model to grow in China, so franchise, wholly owned or joint venture.”