In 2001, Marks & Spencer closed all its Spanish stores and sold them to El Corte Inglés for €150 million. Now the British retailer wants to buy those stores back and start their second Spanish adventure in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Bilbao and Valencia.
At the moment, M&S has a few franchises in the Canary Islands and sell over the Internet. It’s great news for those of us who missed their English muffins, crumpets and assortment of stiltons and cheddars. Apparently, in these years M&S has gained quite a name for themselves selling affordable, good quality clothes. With our very own Zara’s, H&M’s etc. I see that market niche as difficult to crack – but then again, M&S’s clothing might be aimed at a more mature, less flashy public.
M&S also has a good reputation for prepared foods. Some of my British friends have expressed dismay at what little variety of these we have in Spain. It’s true that we’re just not accustomed to prepared foods – they generally have a bad reputation as unhealthy and not very tasty. M&S might be able to cater for busy professionals who want quality food that’s easy to prepare. Not that there are many of them in Spain, but it is a niche.
I have no idea what’s changed in the market between 2001 and 2010 that makes M&S think that they can now crack the Spanish market, specially now that the economic situation is much worse. For one, the amount of British expats coming to Spain (and avoiding anything to do with Spanish culture – except for sangría) has grown massively. And although I’m not sure that there’s enough of them yet I say: bring on those crumpets!