Mumbai: British retailer Marks and Spencer aims to step up the pace in India with its new joint venture with Reliance Retail and says it expects the fast-growing market to be more significant than China.
M&S, which expects its international business to make up 15-20% of total revenues in the next five years, said it would take 51%, the maximum permissible by Indian law in a venture with Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd.
Marks & Spencer Reliance India Pvt Ltd will open at least 50 new stores in India over five years to sell apparel and homeware, with an initial investment of up to $58 million.
The UK retailer’s previous franchise partner Planet Retail, will continue to operate the 14 existing franchise M&S stores.
“When we looked at the market and the scale of opportunity here, we realized a joint venture was the way to do it, as it gave us a lot more involvement in the business,” Mark Ashman, chief executive of M&S Reliance India, said at the weekend.
Expansion plans in Middle East, China
M&S last month announced a franchise arrangement to expand into the Middle East and is setting up a wholly-owned store in Shanghai. But India, despite its controls, will be significant.
“India, I think, is more important than China because of the scale of the market and because the M&S brand is already well known here,” Ashman told Reuters by telephone.
Trendy to be in India
M&S’s increased presence comes at a time of heightened interest in India’s fragmented retail industry, which is forecast to nearly double in size by 2015 from about $350 billion.
Bharti Retail last week opened its first food and grocery stores, ahead of the launch of wholesale cash-and-carry centres it plans with Wal-Mart Stores Inc later this year.
France’s Carrefour has said it is in final talks for an India partner, while Tesco also intends to enter.
Foreign multiple-brand retailers are only permitted wholesale and franchise operations in India, where the expansion of modern retail has sparked political concerns and protests from small traders over potential job losses.
Reliance is spending more than $5.5 billion on retail. It has been forced to close some of its convenience stores in some states due to local opposition.
It has more than 500 stores, including hypermarkets and non-food specialty stores, but has said it would be difficult to meet its target of 100 million sq ft (9.3 million sq metres) of retail space by 2010/11.
The new M&S stores, the first of which Ashman hopes will be open by October in time for the festival season -- will be four-five times the size of the current stores, which average 5,000-6,000 sq ft, he said.
Prices in India, which have been 15-25% higher than in the UK stores, will be driven lower by more local sourcing. M&S now sources goods worth 70 million pounds from India, he said.