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Rise of Yorkshire Puddings

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Is M&S about to change the way China shops?

Marks & Spencers, known as “M&S” on its British home ground, where it has more than 600 stores, is now open for business on the Chinese mainland.  At 40,000 square feet (3,700 square metres), the store on Shanghai’s West Nanjing Road is the company’s largest in Asia.

  Richard Sweet, Managing Director, Marks & Spencer China, says that mainland shoppers’ positive experience of their Hong Kong stores bodes well for business on the mainland: “… around 30% of customers in some of our Hong Kong stores are from mainland China. They love our good quality, value products, so we believe there is a demand for M&S in China”.


  The store will display one of the widest ranges of its 290 international stores, including – much to the delight of British expats living in the city – frozen Yorkshire puddings, and Christmas puddings. 

 

It’s not likely, however, that the expansion into mainland China will be able to deliver much cheer to the company and its shareholders, at least for the coming Christmas.  Sir Stuart Rose, M&S's executive chairman, warned that the critical Christmas period will be “very, very difficult”, reports the Daily Telegraph. 

 

Those sentiments won’t do anything to shore up confidence in the company’s shares,  which have taken a battering for the past year, and are now trading at slightly over two British pounds (down from six pounds at the start of the year).

 

In the longer term, though, China and India (M&S reports that it has plans for 50 stores there) could indeed provide the company with a much-needed fillip; particularly if it focuses its marketing efforts on its clothing line.  The M&S clothes label has the potential to do well in developing markets because it delivers good value (people are happy to pay more for outstanding quality, particularly so if it’s got a “foreign label” attached to it). 

 

As for the food side of the business… time will tell, but Yorkshire puddings – along with other expensive pre-cooked items – are more likely to be on Mr and Mrs Wang’s list of dinner time conversation-starters than on their till receipt.

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