Marks & Spencer has been consulting former Safeway chief executive Carlos Criado-Perez about M&S’ ambitious expansion plans for China, according to a report in The Times.

Argentinian Criado-Perez, who left supermarket chain Safeway when it was bought by Morrisons three years ago, is also understood to have drawn up research on Taiwan for the high street giant. It is believed his report on China was handed to M&S chief executive Stuart Rose in the spring.

M&S announced at its interim results four weeks ago that it wants to double the size of its international business within five years and Rose said China is central to this plan. An M&S spokeswoman said: “Nothing has changed since we said we were going to open stores in China next year. Our plans remain the same. Carlos is an important and respected figure in retail and we value his advice.”