British retailer M&S returns to France

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French shoppers deprived of Marks & Spencer's knickers and tea bags can breathe a sigh of relief after the British chain announced Friday it was re-opening in France after a ten-year absence.

The company will open a new store on Paris's flagship Champs-Elysees in November with an unspecified number to follow, buts its return will also be accompanied by the launch of a website aimed at the French market.

"Marks & Spencer today announces that it will return to France towards the end of this year with a combined e-commerce and retail 'bricks and clicks' strategy," the group said in a statement.

The Champs-Elysee store will specialise in women's clothing -- its core product in Britain -- and food.

"We're very excited to be returning with an e-commerce and retail offer to delight customers with our full range of clothing and home products, and the exceptional food from our Paris store," Chief Executive Marc Bolland said at a press conference in Paris.

M&S also said it was in talks with one of its British franchises to open cafes in and around the French capital serving its food under the "Marks & Spencer Simply Food" brand.

The firm said it was looking at a "limited number" of other locations to sell a larger selection of clothing and food.

M&S sparked outrage among its workforce when it suddenly announced in 2001 that it was closing its 38 shops in continental Europe, including 18 in France where it employed 1,700 people.

The announcement of the European withdrawal triggered a row with French unions which lasted months and French politicians heavily criticised the chain for its treatment of employees.

© 2011 AFP

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