M&S says the location of its new stores is key

M&S says the location of its new stores is key

Marks and Spencer has revealed plans to more than double the number of its Simply Food stores it opens a year in the UK.

The UK retailer yesterday (23 October) announced plans for a significant expansion of its Simply Food network in the UK through the opening of around 150 stores over the next three years. M&S has 427 owned and franchise Simply Food outlets across the country.

The move is being made to "further enhance" its specialist food positioning and reduce drive times to access M&S food, the grocer told investors at an M&S food event in London this afternoon.

Of the new stores, around half will be 2,000sq ft and operated through one of M&S's existing franchise partners in convenience locations such as motorway service areas, train stations, hospitals, petrol station forecourts and airports. The retailer has 249 Simply Food stores operated on a franchise basis across the UK through partnerships with BP, SSP and Moto.

The remaining stores will be M&S-owned, high street and retail park stores trading across 10-15,000sq ft.

Steve Rowe, executive director of M&S's food operations, told attendees the locations for these stores was key. He said the investment, which was within M&S's capex plans, was about going for "position rather than size".

"Around 49% of the UK population is outside a ten-minute drive to an M&S Simply Food store and ten minutes is key to loyalty. This [investment] is about targeting an opportunity with the right footprint in the right locations. From next year, 30 stores will have opened in the UK. All will be located on the edge of towns and mainly driven by BP."

Rowe also said there was "a huge opportunity" internationally for its food business. M&S yesterday announced a new franchise deal in France, where it has teamed up with newsagent Relay to open ten food stores in Paris