London: Marks & Spencer Group Plc will launch websites in 46 new overseas markets to try to revive international businesses that have remained weak for years despite multiple transformation efforts.
The British seller of food, clothing and household items said that expanding into countries from Nepal to Bolivia and Uzbekistan will expand its online reach to more than 100 countries in a cost-effective manner.
Paul Freestone, international director at M&S, said that online sales to overseas customers have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, jumping 75% in the first half alone as more people around the world prefer to shop from home.
The new websites will offer a range of apparel and home products, with orders being fulfilled through the company’s existing distribution network.
This push will allow the retailer to “explore primary demand in these markets without a major upfront investment,” Friston said in a statement.
Marks & Spencer, a household name in Britain, sells online and through hundreds of stores across the country. However, profitability has declined for years, influenced by the long-suffering clothing and home division and the broader structural changes in the highly competitive UK market.
International business has also had a mixed record over the past decade, with the franchising arm of the brand performing better overall than the wholly owned stores.
In 2011, during the reign of former CEO Mark Bolland, Marx and Spencer returned to France with great fanfare after a 10-year absence.
She opened a flagship store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, which Poland heralded as a symbol of her success abroad. But within several years, the retailer was in decline. That store has shut down, along with several unprofitable outlets across Europe.
In the past decade, operating profits in M&S International Division have decreased from £ 147 million to just over £ 110 million on revenues that have ranged largely around £ 1 billion.
Steve Rowe, the chief executive who led the latest transformation effort, said in May that the retailer had completed the first phase of international business transformation by moving from direct ownership to a franchise and joint venture model.
He said that the focus is now on “localizing domains, reducing prices and developing online sales globally.”