Marks & Spencer’s famous Marble Arch branch has passed the baton as flagship store to the retailer’s online shop, chief executive Marc Bolland said.
The retailer is preparing to switch its online platform from Amazon in 2014 and has just opened an ecommerce distribution centre in Castle Donington, both enabling growing online operations to be stepped up a gear.
Bolland said: “Probably for the first time, Marble Arch is no longer our flagship store. The flagship store is dotcom.”
The ability to offer the whole range online to customers in M&S store as multichannel services such as Shop Your Way increase in importance, and as staff make use of devices such as iPads, is changing the landscape.
“In a small store in Bristol you can have Marble Arch in your hand,” he said. Store staff understand the opportunity and are behind the push into multichannel, he maintained.
Multichannel sales rose 16.6% last year to account for 13% of M&S’s general merchandise sales and there are now 3.6 million weekly visitors to its website. However, the bricks-and-mortar store is likely to retain a vital role with 44% of Shop Your Way orders collected in-store.
However, Bolland was emphatic that M&S would not start selling its highly-regarded food online. The basket size would be too small he said but, even if the economics stacked up, it would still not appeal. “People like to come into our stores to see what’s changed and to be surprised [by new food lines],” he said.
M&S’s new multichannel platform will go live in spring next year and “showcase the best of M&S via a fashion-forward online environment and offering a crisp, easy-to-use environment.”
However, there will be a one-off £30m dual running cost as the transition to the new platform is made and Castle Donington comes on stream.