Marks and Spencer opened its first China store in 2008, and got off to a bad start. Some believed that the building it had chosen in Shanghai was haunted, whilst others asserted that it simply had bad feng shui. But the most tragic omen came on its opening day, when a man fell to his death from its fourth floor escalator.
Last week M&S announced that it would be closing all of its China stores, having shuttered five last year, leaving just 10 left for the chop.
“Our review has shown that our stores in mainland China continue to make losses and as a result we can no longer trade with a store presence in the Chinese market,” said Adam Colton, managing director of Greater China for Marks and Spencer.
Jack Chuang, OC&C Strategy Consultants’ Greater China partner suggested that far from being due to its inauspicious start, M&S failed to capture the Chinese market because it neglected to adapt to it; and failed to make clothes to suit the size, shape and style of Chinese customers.
The closures in China are part of a global sweep: M&S is closing 53 stores in 10 countries, plus an additional 30 in its native UK. But M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said the shutting of its department stores were being made to enable the development of 200 new M&S Simply Food shops.
Since the Chinese scathingly refer to British food as “black cuisine”, should the new strategy apply to mainland China, it might not fare any better.