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Vive la France for Marks & Spencer

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Marks & Spencer returned to France last autumn with a bricks-and-clicks strategy as part of its plan to reduce dependence on the sluggish U.K. home market. Planet Retail had the unique opportunity to visit the retailer’s flagship variety store on Paris’ Champs-Élysées. The 15,000-sq.-ft. store, which opened its doors in November, offers food alongside women’s clothing and lingerie over three floors. The launch of the outlet comes a decade after Marks & Spencer closed its last stores on the European continent. The food offer, consisting of 1,000 SKUs and trading from 1,500 sq. ft., has proven to be popular, generating approximately $234,000 a week — $12.2 million per annum, should the store continue to perform at this level. To put this into context, the average Sainsbury’s Local c-store in the U.K. generates just over $3.9 million annually. Marks & Spencer says traditional British products like bacon, shortbread and sauces have resonated well with local consumers. Average basket size stands at $17, with typical lunchtime spending of $9.40. Considering the outlet has relatively limited stock-holding space, replenishment has proven to be a challenge, so all food products are currently shipped from the U.K. on a daily basis. The variety retailer hopes to offer a larger food range in its second Paris store, which it is set to open this fall in the suburb of So Ouest. Leases have also been signed for stores scheduled to open next year in Beaugrenelle and Aeroville; two full-line Marks & Spencer units are also in the pipeline, and the first Simply Food stores are set to open this year in various town center locations. Clothing and lingerie account for the vast majority of the Champs-Élysées outlet’s sales area, with average customer spend at $78. Marks & Spencer offers its core private labels for women, including Indigo (the store is already the seventh-largest seller of Indigo globally), Limited and Autograph; it also stocks formalwear. All packaging and labels are in English, with size conversion charts located around the store. Although the outlet features only women’s wear and lingerie, it has a number of online ordering kiosks giving customers access to the entire 10,000-strong product range available on Marks & Spencer’s French site. There are also two touchscreen ordering points and two fixed iPads. Currently, customers can only order for home delivery, as there is no collection service in-store. Use of the kiosks has been modest — an average of three sales daily — but the average ticket size is a strong $156. Marks & Spencer is also using Facebook and Twitter to drive customer engagement.

• The move provides an opportunity to further capitalize on the increasing popularity of convenience food in France. Future stores should be similarly well received, particularly if additional space is dedicated to high-performing food ranges.
• Marks & Spencer has the chance to better align store and e-commerce operations through the introduction of pick-up points.
• The retailer’s return to France paves the way for entry into other Western European markets, thereby reducing the company’s dependence on a sluggish U.K. domestic market. Source: Planet Retail