Marks & Spencer set to expand in India

By Marc Castro

Nov 12, 2013 12:35 AM EST

Marks and Spencer, the British retailer, is laying out plans to make India its largest international market through the doubling of its store count in the country by 2016. This was confirmed by its Marks and Spencer Global CEO Marc Bolland last Monday.

M&S operates in India through a joint venture agreement with Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Retail. It plans to increase its store count from 36 to 80 in the next three years.

Bolland said, "The company had its first priority market as China which I changed to India more than two years ago." Bolland was in the country to open the retailer's largest store in India located in Mumbai.

Despite the decline of its global sales for the ninth straight quarter during July-September, M&S is putting its bets on India and added pressure on its current CEO for the decision made after he assumed office in 2010. As it increased its focus on India, the market still views M&S as a pricey and luxury brand, thus opting for local brands or other labels such as Zara and Mango.

One of the main goal of Bolland is to change that perception and the numbers have belied that change of perception. Marks & Spencer Reliance Retail reported a 28% increase in revenues for the year ending March, amounting to INR374.70 crore. It had posted a net loss of INR28.10 crore according to its latest regulatory filing.

In addition, India is not just a retail market for Marks and Spencer. It obtains about one third of its global merchandise from markets such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Within India itself, nearly 64% of merchandise that M&S sells is sourced from local markets. 

Prior to the joint venture agreement, the brand sold its goods through local franchise partners such as Planet Retail, which had created the misconception that Marks & Spencer had limited offers and were prohibitively priced.

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