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Marks & Spencer ‘Turbocharges’ Online Business with 46 New International Websites

Marks Spencer Marble Arch

In one fell swoop, British retailer Marks & Spencer has doubled the number of international markets where it has a pureplay online presence with the launch of 46 new flagship websites.

M&S currently operates 1,400+ stores in 57 countries, and with the additional websites now has an online presence in more than 100 international markets. The massive ecommerce expansion is part of the retailer’s Never the Same Again transformation plan, designed to drive international growth through online channels under its recently established online, digital and data division MS2.

The launch of the new collection of international websites was achieved with an adaptable website platform specifically designed for M&S’s international operations. Orders from the websites will be fulfilled through M&S’s established distribution network. The new sites mean that M&S is now available online in 10 additional languages and a wider range of currencies, offering a more localized experience to international shoppers.

The time is ripe for a big international push, with the travel restrictions of the last year prompting a spike in cross-border commerce. At its recent half-year results for the period ended Sept. 26, 2020, M&S reported a 75% increase in international ecommerce sales from the previous year.

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“Our international business has seen strong online growth since the start of the pandemic as increasing numbers of customers choose to shop through our range of flagship websites,” said Paul Friston, International Director at M&S in a statement. “Launching in an additional 46 markets means we can now reach a number of new customers who can purchase online with M&S for the first time and receive our fantastic M&S products in a few short clicks, as well as enabling us to explore underlying demand in these markets without significant upfront investment.”

The iconic British retailer, founded in 1884, has experienced sales and popularity declines in the past several years. The company cut 950 store management and head office jobs in the middle of 2020 as the pandemic forced it to fast-track a restructuring that was already underway pre-COVID. The expedited transformation plan was renamed Never the Same Again, and the company laid out the goal of “making three years’ progress in one.”

“I am determined to use the lessons from the crisis and accelerate the transformation of M&S so we can emerge as a renewed and stronger business,” CEO Steve Rowe told reporters in May 2020 after the company reported a 21% fall in 2019-20 profit.

M&S also announced this week that it was investigating the possibility of downsizing its flagship Marble Arch store in central London; reassessment of the retailer’s brick-and-mortar footprint is another key component of the Never the Same Again plan. The proposed redevelopment would see the current store replaced with a smaller, modernized version that will be “seamlessly integrated with M&S.com and equipped with the latest in store digital shopping technology.” The upper levels of the building would then be converted into office space.

The group’s digital efforts were further advanced last year by another pre-COVID development — a partnership with UK online grocer Ocado that went live in September, making the entire M&S Food range available online for the first time during a year when online grocery retail skyrocketed.

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