Ocado’s share price since flotation and its ongoing attempt to become profitable will be of consuming interest to retail directors other than just the online grocer’s. Among them no doubt is Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland, who is gearing up to unveil his strategy this autumn.

Ocado’s share price since flotation and its ongoing attempt to become profitable will be of consuming interest to retail directors other than just the online grocer’s. Among them no doubt is Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland, who is gearing up to unveil his strategy this autumn.

His vision for M&S will undoubtedly take in development of its own online arm, and he will certainly have pondered whether it can be extended from general merchandise into food.

M&S bosses have made explicit their ambition to sell food over the internet. Retail chief Steve Rowe said at last year’s strategy day that he had no doubt it would eventually happen, but was candid that he did not know then how the feat could be pulled off.

One of the biggest challenges has been the nature of the M&S food basket. The retailer is not the destination for a weekly shop, but seen as a specialist in foodie treats.

M&S’s in-store food offer has changed though: third-party brands were introduced to allow M&S to drive footfall and take a bigger share of food spend.

The signs are that the venture has been a success.

In the same way that M&S’s food basket has traditionally been an add-on to the weekly grocery shop, would there be a way to do the opposite online and leverage shoppers’ desire to buy M&S goodies to also sell them all the other things that typically go into the family trolley?

It could be done in the same way that Ocado used the strength of Waitrose food to sell other brands and, like Ocado, could be offered solely online rather than in shops.

It would necessitate a fulfilment partnership but perhaps there would be takers. One possibility would be cash and carry firm Booker, which supplies M&S’s third-party food brands and is run by M&S chairman Sir Stuart Rose’s former lieutenant, Charles Wilson.