Marks & Spencer has enlisted advisors to scout locations in Western Europe for Simply Food stores, it is understood.

Following the opening this month of a franchised store in Marbella – which does not sell food – Marks & Spencermay pursue a version of Simply Food for the Continent, The Times reported.

International expansion is one of the central planks of M&S’s growth strategy, and executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose has frequently said that the decision to withdraw from Western Europe, made before his appointment, was regrettable.

An M&S spokeswoman said: “There are opportunities that are worth a look in Western Europe. However, we don’t currently have any plans for the region.”