Marks and Spencer in the USA: Could high street stalwart cross the pond?

24th May 2011

As reported in The Telegraph, Marks and Spencer has increased its profits by 13% in the last financial year.

Underlying profits before tax rose 12.9% to £714m, with revenues up 4.2% to £9.7bn.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said M&S was turning its attention to emerging markets, with India and China top of its list.

He also hinted that M&S could return to the US, as he set out plans to revamp stores and modernise its clothing ranges.

Mr Bolland was reported on the Financial Times website (paywall) as saying the US could be in M&S's long-term plans, as the retailer expands its international operations.

"Yes, we will have a look at the US, not tomorrow, but later," he said.

"If you recognise today the company is 127 years in business, and we would not be able to supply in the US. But some smaller companies in business for three years are able to. So it tells us the story."

Mr Bolland, who joined from supermarket chain WM Morrison in May 2010, said: "There are plans to open 10 new stores in India over the next year, bringing the total in the country to 29. In China, M&S is looking to unveil a futher six stores in addition to the three opened in 2010/11.

Mr Bolland is also looking to return to the French market, following the disastrous decision to pull out of the country in 2001.

The Guardian reported that M&S saw challenges ahead but would be continuing with its planned store revamp.

It said it was addressing customer concerns by "creating a more inspiring in-store environment, and improving in-store navigation and packaging architecture".

It added: "While the last store modernisation programme improved the core infrastructure of our stores, it has not delivered an inspirational shopping environment for our customers. Moreover, 90 of our stores remain unmodernised. Our aim is to complete this programme over the next three years and work on delivering an improved in-store environment across general merchandise and food."

The Guardian also reported that capital expenditure rose to £492m from £389m the year before, as investment in new stores increased from £50m to £151m.

Like-for-like revenues in the UK rose 2.9% in the year to 2 April 2011, despite the sharp slowdown in fourth-quarter general merchandise sales.

On the Guardian FrancesSmith comments on M&S's plans to segregate its stores. "Interesting, what is "packaging architecture? Though as they are reclassifying their clothes as men's and women's, I assume it refers to the somewhat complex instore branding system which distinguishes per una from whatever the rest are called."

"However there is still an issue about the clothes sold, they seem to be targetted at some average middle aged woman, who in reality doesn't exist.

A bit like politics, too much focus group, not enough just making attractive clothes."

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