UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) plans to open three stores in Egypt as part of a five-year expansion plan across the Middle East, the store’s franchise partner said.
The company will press ahead with the opening of its second Cairo store by the end of October, despite recent widespread political unrest in the Arab country, said Bruce Bowman, head of operations for M&S at Dubai’s Al Futtaim.
“We have undoubted confidence that we will be in Egypt for the medium to long term, and it’s not going to stop at a second store - there will also be a third and a fourth store,” said Bowman.
“There are active conversations going on with landlords in major malls just now.”
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, attracted Gulf developers and retailers with five years of rapid economic growth prior to the revolution.
UAE developer Majid Al Futtaim operates eight supermarkets and two shopping malls in the country, with plans to open a third in 2014.
“Egypt is a key market. With a population of 80 million there’s real opportunity for scale there,” Bowman said.
Al Futtaim currently operates 14 Marks & Spencer outlets across the Gulf and is due to open its second store in Abu Dhabi in September.
Under a five-year, Gulf-wide expansion plan, the company plans to open at least one more store in Kuwait and Qatar, expand its stores in Oman and Bahrain and add new outlets in the UAE.
“The number of stores that we have in each country is going to be linked to the size of the market,” said Bowman. “We’re looking for additional real estate in Kuwait, there’s no doubt opportunity for growth there in terms of numbers of stores.
“In Qatar we have two stores, but we’ve already announced at a corporate level that Al Futtaim is building Doha Festival City and we will absolutely have a Marks & Spencer there.”
M&S this year said it planned to speed up its international expansion in a bid to offset domestic competition with revenue from fast-growing emerging markets.
Chief executive Mark Bolland said in February he planned to transform M&S “from a UK multi-channel retailer to an international multi-channel retailer” by 2015.
M&S has more than 350 stores in 42 overseas territories.