Blog: Petah MarianIs Bolland underplaying M&S' international ambitions?

Petah Marian | 24 May 2011

Under the direction of chief executive Marc Bolland, Marks and Spencer has revealed plans to hone its focus on a number of selected international markets.

Bolland announced plans for the retailer to re-enter France earlier this year but he remains committed to developing its operations in China and India.

In India, the UK company has accelerated the pace of its growth, with ten new stores set to open over the next year, in addition to the existing 19. Meanwhile, in China, the retailer opened three outlets in Shanghai and has plans for six more stores in the coming year.

However, Bolland's ambitions may not end at the Atlantic Ocean and above the equator, as he has so far been so keen to suggest.

In a throwaway comment in the M&S' full-year earnings press conference today (24 May), Bolland said that there were retailers that had been around for three years that can offer products, via e-commerce, in France, the UK and the US, and that his company, with its 127-year heritage, did not have the same capabilities.

Bolland suggested that, with the changing shape of online consumer behaviour, M&S needs to get to that point, operationally, within the next three years.

However, he backtracked on these comments later on in the presentation when many of the journalists present understandably took it to mean that M&S had plans to enter the US within the next three years.

While the US remains on the retailer's longer-term agenda, Bolland's plans for the EU might be more interesting, at least in the shorter term.

He said M&S is going to use its re-entry into the US to help it to roll out an ecommerce platform that can handle multiple currencies and languages. And testing it in France, logistically speaking, it is as easy to deliver in Lyon as in Scotland, emphasised Bolland.

The appointment of Jan Heere as international director earlier this month may also signal M&S' interest in Russia, a market that Bolland was quick to include in his definition of Europe. Heere's previous role as general manager of Inditex's Russian operations would mean that he would be well placed if the retailer was to consider an entry into the country.

Watch this space...



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