Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland weighs return to US market

He must be a brave man, new Marks & Spencer CEO Marc Bolland as he hinted that the company may make a further foray into the United States when announcing M&S profits of £780m yesterday.

Bolland, formerly CEO of UK supermarket chain Morrisons and before that a top marketer at Heineken, has already committed the UK clothes and food retailer to expanding its operations in Europe, China and India and he observed that it was rather strange that a 127-year old retail giant like M&S couldn’t “supply” consumers in the US whereas some three-year old UK companies could.

M&S retreated with its tail between its legs from the US after making a complete hash of running iconic outfitter Brooks Brothers and supermarket chain Kings, both of which it bought in 1988.

Its stewardship of Brooks Brothers was utterly baffling. Despite spending £500m on it (a chunky sum in 1988) it failed to introduce its products into the UK at a time when the City of London was booming in the wake of ‘Big Bang’ deregulation, stuffed with Essex boys who would have paid a fortune for preppy Brooks Brothers kit.

Bolland also remarked that a move into the US was not imminent but it’s a safe bet that, rather than plotting to buy stores, new M&S online whizz Laura Wade-Gery (hired from Tesco) has been charged with setting up an online operation.

This, and maybe a handful of flagship stores in major cities, looks by far the likeliest route for the ambitious Bolland.

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