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Tensions between Western countries and Russia have impacted several economies in Eastern Europe and it’s proved too much for Marks & Spencer, which is planning to pull out of five of the region’s countries.
The exit from Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro will see a dozen stores close from January. It will further dent the retailer’s ambition to open 250 new stores overseas by 2017, which is already behind schedule.
The change is part of an overhaul of the group’s international strategy, spurred both by the political crisis in the region and by wider concerns about global economic growth, especially in the wake of economic issues in China and the Middle East.
But M&S is taking an upbeat stance and stressing that this isn’t the end of its growth in Eastern Europe.
“We continue to closely manage our international business and take decisive actions as necessary to ensure our store portfolio is fit for the future of M&S, the retailer told Mail Online.
It said the stores to be closed ranged from 3,000 to 16,000 sq ft, adding that the change would “enable us to firmly focus on our other successful businesses in eastern Europe”, including Poland, Hungary and Romania.
In 2014, chief executive Marc Bolland said he wanted to open 250 stores abroad over the following three years. The company said that it had opened just 34 in the past 18 months.
Last month, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, M&S’s marketing and international director, admitted that the three-year goal was now unattainable, saying the global climate was very different when the announcement was made.
“The world has shifted. It is a different place. The Syrian situation was very different from what it is today. Putin had not invaded Ukraine and China was growing at close to 9%,” he said.
* On Friday M&S announced it would open its first store in Beijing, adding to those it already operates in Shanghai.
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