Marc Bolland, chief executive at Marks & Spencer, revealed how the business is transforming from being a traditional British retailer into an international, multi-channel retailer at the IGD 2012 Convention.
The initial focus has been on the UK, however, and building new systems and better stores.
Bolland highlighted developments at Marks & Spencer’s new concept store at Cheshire Oaks with modern clothing displays and an enhanced bakery and deli offer.
International expansion will follow on in four key markets, said Bolland. In order of importance, they are: India, Shanghai, Russia and the Gulf, he said.
Recruiting local experts is key, however. Now, the four international divisions are run by local experts working alongside M&S managers.
Bolland said Marks & Spencer has a target to open 100 overseas stores a year, two a week.
Multi-channel developments include the introduction of browse and order points and virtual screens in beauty departments, which provide impartial advice and are driving 10% of sales.
“M&S knew nothing about in-store technology 18 months ago,” Bolland conceded.
Bolland revealed M&S will be launching 10 international websites by the end of the year, which will be market-specific.
He also provided an update on the retailer’s Plan A programme – 94 out of 100 initial commitments have been met and around 30 out of a further 80 set for 2015.
Marks & Spencer is a carbon neutral business and sends zero to landfill, Bolland added.
He also called for businesses to look further ahead and said every company should have 5% of its business model that is cradle to cradle such as Marks & Spencer’s Shwopping programme, in which customers donate an unwanted item of clothing when buying a new one, to be re-used, re-sold or recycled by Oxfam.
Bolland said there was a risk people would not buy a new item or stores would be inundated with millions of pieces of clothing.
In reality, 500,000 pieces of clothing were returned in the first six weeks with some fabrics recycled into new garments.
Recycled suits, designed by a tailor on Saville Row, are now on sale in Marks & Spencer stores and retailing at £349.00, Bolland said.