ALMOST a decade after closing its nine stores in Spain, Marks & Spencer wants to return to the Iberian peninsula.
The retail giant’s new boss is looking to buy back the stores it sold to Corte Ingles in 2001.
Marc Bolland’s review of the chain is due next week, when he is expected to announce the bold plan, aimed at kick starting M&S’s international growth.
Last year a franchise branch of Marks and Spencer opened in Marbella, to complement the other fanchise in this area, on
But Bolland’s review could see shops wholly owned by Marks & Spencer appearing in the region’s major cities such as Seville, Cordoba and Malaga.
A total of 3,350 jobs were lost across Europe and continental consumers at its 38 stores were in uproar, when M&S pulled out in March 2001 as part of a group restructuring.
One retail executive with knowledge of the situation said that M&S has been keen to make amends for its strategic gaffe ever since. “They approached El Corte Inglés to buy back the assets. Marc Bolland wants to rebuild some of the geographies quickly.”
The potential cost to M&S of taking back the stores is not known.
In 2001 it sold the nine Spanish stores for a reported 150m euros.
However the price of commercial property across Europe has soared since then, despite the recent downturn. “It all depends on how big M&S’s cheque is,” said the executive.
Sir Stuart Rose, M&S’s outgoing chairman and its former chief executive, has said in the past that he regretted the chain’s decision to exit its European stores, as the Olive Press reported in our March 10 issue.
M&S’s European shops traded successfully over the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1997 M&S’s Continental operation contributed 43m euros of profits, but by 2000 the division made a 7m euros loss, and in the first half of 2001 losses widened to £12.3m euros.
M&S, which declined to comment on a move into Europe, has 320 shops overseas but the vast majority are run as franchises and it has no whollyowned stores in Western Europe.