Marks & Spencer is launching a raft of stores in Scandinavia and will make its Nordic debut with a flagship store in Helsinki next month.

The retailer intends to open 15 franchised stores across Finland and Norway and to launch a Finnish website in 2016, Retail Week can reveal.

M&S’s 32,000 sq ft shop in Helsinki will open in Helsinki on October 9 and trade across four floors.

Franchise partner S Group will then open another six stores in the country over the next 12 months.

M&S will open its first Norwegian store in Oslo in November with franchise partner Pocos Group. It will be a food store and will be followed by another seven.

M&S regional director of Europe Francois Smeyers said: “Expanding our reach to Scandinavia, which we see as an important international market for us, is a central part of our ongoing international growth strategy in Europe and we are delighted to be opening our first stores in the region over the next few months.”

It is a return to Finland for the retailer, which opened a store in the country in 1999 with a different franchise partner. That store shut in 2001.

M&S’s growth plans in Scadinavia are part of the retailer’s strategy to open 250 new international stores by 2016. At present it has 160 stores in Europe in locations including Paris.

A variety of UK retailers have been targeting the Nordic region. Dixons has a well established presence through its Elkjop chain and in June Supergroup bought its Scandinavian distributor, giving it the rights to trade the Superdry brand in Denmark, Norway and Finland,

International and multichannel growth are key planks in M&S chief executive Marc Bolland’s strategy.

Last year M&S’s international sales climbed 6.2% to £1.15bn.