Marks and Spencer is planning to increase its share of grocery in the UK by continuing the expansion of its Simply Food.
Stuart Rose, chief executive, said M&S is continuing to look for more space to open Simply Food stores and would take the space "as and when it became available".
His comments follow those of regional manager Jim McNicholas who this week said M&S was planning to double its share of the Irish grocery market to 10% in the next five years by adding 25 new stores to its current 13 in the Republic, including 13 Simply Foods.
In a trading statement, Rose said that Simply Food had helped M&S's fourth-quarter like-for-like food sales for the 13 weeks to April 13 rise 5.6%, and by 3.6% for the full-year. UK food sales rose 8.4% for the fourth quarter, and by 7% for the year. The retailer claims a 3.1% share of UK grocery and Rose said the latest progress was down to better quality and high levels of innovation.
He said M&S would provide an update on food initiatives next month when it announces its preliminaries. The chain has been considering an online food offering, and there has also been speculation that M&S could launch into catering.
Meanwhile, M&S is growing its team of store merchandisers to drive its refurbishment programme. Last year, 24 M&S stores and their food halls were remodelled with a slick new look, complete with black marble floors, dark fixtures, and tiered stands to give a market feel and boost the product's stand-out. A further 50 to 60 more stores are planned to receive a face lift this year.
Beth Brooks & Gaelle Walker