x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Marks & Spencer to open eight more stores in Middle East

The British retailer plans to significantly expand its presence in the region, opening outlets in both new and existing markets.

Marks & Spencer plans to significantly expand its presence in the Middle East, opening stores in both new and existing markets.

The British retailer currently operates 18 stores in six countries in partnership with the UAE-based Al-Futtaim Group.

By the end of next year M&S aims to add eight more outlets across the region.

Three of the new stores will be in the UAE, where the retailer currently has nine, while it also aims to open another in Bahrain, adding to the one shop it has in the kingdom, and a flagship store in Egypt, where M&S operates three outlets.

Before the end of the year it will also open one store in Lebanon and two in Jordan, both new markets for the retailer.

The first store in Jordan, which will open in about a month's time, will be dedicated to ladies' lingerie and beauty. It will be the first store of its kind for the company.

"It is exciting because we're in two new territories, which will [according to] all the research we have seen, love M&S. Because we are all product groups: men, kids, ladies, lingerie, we can adapt the range accordingly," said Julie Howett, the head of merchandising and buying for lingerie at M&S

"We know for example the families in Jordan are huge. In Lebanon they love their fashion and lingerie. Lingerie [in Lebanon] we predict will outstrip the UAE, so all the research says these new markets are going to soak us up," she added.The retailer has sold six million bras across the region since opening its first store in Deira in 1998. It has steadily expanded in the region since and opened its first operation in Egypt about a month before the start of the uprising.

"Everything in Egypt tells me that there is opportunity. I think the confidence of that statement is in the fact that our flagship store opens in Cairo Festival City, an Al-Futtaim project.

"That will be our flagship," said Ms Howett. "We want five good, established stores in that market."

She said the company is also in talks to expand its food section in Middle East stores that is currently limited to a small range of frozen and packaged items.

"We have recently launched a range of frozen food products in Qatar which are proving massively popular and [have] plans to launch M&S food products in Egypt, where we already have a strong retail presence.

"We have a specific expansion strategy for the whole of the Mena [Middle East and North Africa] region and it is only a matter of time before our products for the region become meat halal," she added.

gduncan@thenational.ae