Shop Your Way initiative helps retailer to meet target three months ahead of year-end schedule

Marks & Spencer is poised to beat its online sales target of £500m ahead of schedule.

The retailer, which posts interims next week, is thought likely to achieve the figure over Christmas, three months ahead

of the year-end deadline it set itself.

New chief executive Marc Bolland will flag continued multichannel opportunities next week when he elaborates on his strategy for M&S, and is likely to be questioned about how it can add food to its online offer - a longstanding ambition so far unrealised.

M&S’s multichannel operations have been growing rapidly. In the second quarter direct sales climbed 49%, helped by initiatives such as the multichannel service Shop Your Way, which has been introduced in 434 shops. In the last full year M&S’s direct sales reached £413.3m - an increase of 27%.

Rapid growth is likely to continue over the Christmas selling season, when sector-wide online sales are forecast by industry body IMRG to leap by 16%.

Singer analyst Matthew McEachran said it was a “reasonable supposition” that the £500m sales target would be achieved over Christmas as smaller shops benefitted from being able to offer a wider range as a result of Shop Your Way.

Altium analyst Philip Dorgan said that M&S could generate as much as 20% of sales online within five years and that etail turnover should reach £1bn within three or four years.

On Tuesday Bolland is also expected to reveal more of his thinking on M&S’s core offer, such as the number of fashion brands it has, and international opportunities. The retailer is reportedly considering re-entering continental countries, such as France, that it quit in 2001.

Is is unclear how much strategic detail Bolland will go into. Dorgan said: “Whether it is detailed or not - our money is on not - we see much to go for, given that M&S remains an iconic brand with a customer base that wants it to succeed.”

Marks & Spencer has performed well throughout this year, helped by improvements to its food business, fashion appeal and ‘good, better, best’ price architecture.