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Marks & Spencer Counts on Food Stores for Online Growth

Marks & Spencer Shopping Bags
A customer carries Marks & Spencer Plc shopping bags outside a store in London. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Marks & Spencer Group Plc, Britain’s largest clothing retailer, is banking on its expanding network of food stores to boost online sales of apparel and home wares.

The London-based retailer has noted that delivery to stores, where customers pick up the ordered items the next day, has “driven lots of growth,” Laura Wade-Gery, who heads the company’s e-commerce unit, said yesterday as she unveiled the retailer’s revamped website.

“We’ve got lots of Simply Foods in nice, convenient locations,” Wade-Gery said in an interview. Even so, more customers need to make “the connection that they can order a dress at home and pick it up there, even though it’s a food store.”

M&S said on Oct. 22 that it will open about 150 Simply Food stores over the next three years, adding to the 427 stores in that format. The company is counting on the new website, along with a more fashionable Spring/Summer collection, to help reverse 10 straight quarters of declining clothing sales.

About 6.5 million of M&S’s 29 million customers annually shop in store and online, while another 14.5 million only visit the stores.

“It’s those 14.5 million customers I want,” Wade-Gery said. “They typically told us the old website wasn’t exciting enough.”

On the new site, migrated over from the one previously hosted by Amazon.com Inc., product images are up to 50 percent bigger, include a maxi zoom feature as well as a catwalk and 360 degree video so customers can see more of the product detail.

The company has also improved the buying process and added a dedicated editorial hub offering daily updated content, according to Wade-Gery.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gabi Thesing in London at gthesing@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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