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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
M&S stores to open in India
M&S's store in Manchester, UK
M&S Manchester: A far cry from sunny Delhi
Marks & Spencer (M&S), the archetypal British retailer which has fallen on hard times, is to open two stores in India this year through franchisees.

M&S's local partner, retailer Planet Sports, plans to launch outlets in Delhi and Bombay by October.

M&S is currently in the process of selling its 38 wholly-owned stores in mainland Europe, as part of its attempts to turn its flagging fortunes around.

But at the same time, the firm is pushing ahead with its international expansion by licensing its name to franchise partners around the world.

"It allows us to reach new markets," M&S spokesman Louis Hill told BBC News Online.

"The local partners put up the capital to get the stores running, and we supply them with products."

Shopping around

M&S has 127 franchise stores in 25 countries, including the Czech Republic, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Hill says the next market on M&S's franchise list is Saudi Arabia, building on the firm's established presence in the Middle East.

There is currently no word on precisely what product range will be featured in the Indian stores, but it will be clothing only.

M&S franchise partners have considerable leeway in their choice of products, with most existing stores focusing on niches such as underwear.

Small is beautiful

Franchise stores also tend to be smaller, at an average of 8,000 square feet, compared with an average 40,000 square feet for the firm's own outlets.

M&S now believes its decision to launch large wholly-owned department stores in Europe - selling everything from socks to sandwiches - was an expensive mistake.

Planet Sports, a company founded less than two years ago, currently operates nine stores, including seven Planet Sports outlets selling sporting goods, footwear and apparel.

It also has two Kidz Station stores selling toys, shoes and clothing.

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Business
M&S France seeks sole buyer
25 Jul 01 | Business
M&S French closures on hold
11 Jul 01 | Business
M&S: What the experts say
11 Jul 01 | Business
M&S chief lays on the charm
11 Jul 01 | Business
M&S clothes sales slump further
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