M&S chair Norman hints at international expansion for sustained growth

The chairman of M&S has called on the British supermarket chain to become a “global brand” to ensure its future success.

In an interview with The Times, Norman, who joined M&S as chair in 2017 after leaving the same position at broadcaster ITV a year earlier, said that the company will look to international expansion in the coming months and years.

"We would like M&S to be here for another 100 years, but to do that it has ultimately got to become a global brand," he said. "I think we see that as the phase after this one."

The company previously had multiple ill-fated international expansion attempts, including the acquisition of US menswear brand Brooks Brothers (which resulted in a loss of more than £500 million) and a flagship store on the Champs Elysées in Paris.

Pointing to the successful international growth of fast fashion brands Zara and H&M, Norman told the paper that “you have to choose where you compete and be strong in individual markets.”

He added: “We couldn’t have had this conversation four years ago … but now we are allowed to dream,”

The glowing profile piece which awards Norman as The Sunday Times Business Person of the Year for 2023 highlights the supermarket chain’s transformation in the past half-decade including the revitalisation of its “once frumpy” womenswear business and slowdown of the brand’s food expansion.

The interview also touches on 2019’s joint-venture deal with Ocado that saw M&S pay just shy of £600 million for a 50 per cent stake in the delivery firm’s retail business. Norman noted that while the JV wiped £52 million off its annual savings, the deal generates £50 million of annual savings.

He said: “We think Ocado could be double the size it is today… we’ve got the formula that could create a really profitable, sustainable online food business.”

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