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M&S may return to France, says boss

Emblematic British retailer Marks & Spencer may reopen in France in the future

EMBLEMATIC British retailer Marks & Spencer may reopen in France in the future.

Its new chief executive Mark Bolland has said expansion abroad is a key part of his strategy for coming years and western Europe is one area he is interested in. However, there are no firm plans for French stores as yet.

An M&S spokeswoman said: "Much of our plans are to do with developing markets where we already have stores, such as China, India, the Gulf and the Czech Republic. We are looking at new opportunities, which include western Europe, but it is far too early to make any specific announcements at this stage."

The spokeswoman denied reports by the Daily Telegraph that M&S had been in talks to buy back key buildings where they used to have continental stores, such as one on Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, which was its first continental store, opened in 1975.

"Mark has explicitly said that we would not buy back properties we previously sold off," the spokeswoman said.

By the 2000s M&S had stores in France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal. However, while its continental division was an initial success, it had started to make a loss and a sudden decision was taken to close the stores in 2001 and focus on Britain again.

There was an outcry at the loss of jobs and anglophile Parisians felt deprived of their favourite foods and clothes. Galleries Lafayette then stepped in with an offer for the firm’s 18 French stores and employed its 1,500 French staff.

M&S started expanding internationally again with its first Chinese store in 2008.

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