Marks & Spencer Expands Into China’s E-Commerce Market

Plans To Have E-commerce Business In 10 International Markets

Marks & Spencer has around 400 stores worldwide

Part of its strategy to extend its e-commerce business into 10 international markets, recently the British retailer Marks & Spencer launched a Chinese version of its e-commerce website as well as a dedicated retail space on, the Alibaba Group’s B2C online shopping unit.

Having entered the Chinese market in 2008, M&S has been a relatively slow and deliberate mover every step of the way. As Jing Daily correspondent Cedric Delzenne recently noted:

By the time of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, M&S had seven locations across Hong Kong, yet none on the Chinese Mainland. As Thomas explains, “The Company was in trouble at the time and the strategy was to focus on the domestic [UK] market. Most stores – even some profitable ones – were closed around Europe and even our presence in Hong Kong was questioned.” 

Along with a transition in top management came a renewed international development strategy, and M&S finally turned its eye to the Mainland. The first flagship-sized store opened to great media fanfare on trendy Nanjing Road in Shanghai in late 2008. Yet the buzz quickly faded, be it because of the price range (too expensive for the local, middle-aged target customer), product mix (“too Western for Chinese, too Chinese for Westerners”), empty food shelves (imported products often being blocked at customs) or bad Feng Shui.

Having dealt with these issues in the past, M&S plans to pick up its mainland China expansion this year, and is slated to double its domestic stores in 2013. The retailer currently has 14 stores nationwide, and in the last two months has opened stores in Wenzhou, Jiangyin and Changzhou. Perhaps, with an added online presence — a must in an increasingly digitally savvy Chinese market — M&S will be able to make up for its late entrance and tap the country’s rising inland middle class.


Marketing, Retail, Tech