E-commerce edge helps British retailers expand abroad
By Emma Thomasson and James Davey
BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - Marks & Spencer Plc is making a new push to expand abroad, hoping e-commerce will give Britain's biggest clothing retailer a better chance to succeed than earlier attempts to enter new markets.
It is one of several retailers that are using expertise developed in the UK's fast-growing e-commerce market to expand overseas. Store chains like M&S are starting to emulate the success of online-only fashion players like ASOS.
Britain is the world's most developed online retail market, according to a ranking by commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, followed by the United States, Germany and France.
M&S withdrew from mainland Europe in 2001 after a failed expansion. The retreat was temporary. In March the firm said it would use "bricks and clicks" - opening new stores in a few markets while offering online sales in several more - to accelerate growth abroad.
"Because we sit in the UK we sometimes forget how advanced the UK is," said Laura Wade-Gery, M&S e-commerce executive director.
Although the United States is the biggest e-commerce market by absolute turnover, internet orders make up a bigger portion of total retail sales in Britain - about 11 percent in 2013 to 7.3 percent in the United States, Euromonitor data shows.
Britain's leadership position in e-commerce has been driven by its compact size - which make delivery more cost-effective - along with its relatively high internet penetration.
Retailers are seeking to ship more goods to shoppers abroad, a drive the British government is supporting to diversify exports from a heavy reliance on finance. It launched a plan last year to help 1,000 retailers break into international markets by 2015. Continued...