LONDON -- Marks & Spencer here said last week it is taking its food business local.
The British retailer has announced plans to open two trial stores in a new, convenience-store format. The stores will open in May 2001 and will be located in Twickenham, England, and Surbiton, England, two commuter communities surrounding London.
The stores will average 3,000 square feet and will sell about 1,500 to 2,000 products, focusing on prepared meals, sandwiches, fresh produce and frozen foods, a Marks & Spencer spokesman said.
The company will rapidly roll out the format if it proves successful, he added, noting there is the potential to open up to 40 such stores throughout the United Kingdom.
The convenience stores compare with a normal Marks & Spencer Neighborhood store, which averages 8,000 to 10,000 square feet and often contains such additional services as a butcher and an in-store bakery. Marks & Spencer currently operates 278 stores throughout the U.K., most of which carry some food lines.
Marks & Spencer's move follows the opening of similar formats by Marks & Spencer's competitors Tesco, Cheshunt, England, and J. Sainsbury here. Tesco was the first U.K. food retailer to develop such a format with its Tesco Metro stores located in major shopping streets as well as attached to gasoline stations. Sainsbury followed with its Sainsbury Local stores, most of which are in city-center streets.
The new formats are a reaction to the tighter planning environment in the U.K., which has limited the ability of food retailers to open superstores averaging 60,000 square feet and up.