The web will be an “advance guard” into new markets for Marks & Spencer, chairman Sir Stuart Rose told the World Retail Congress in Berlin this morning.

Addressing an audience of 1,100 retailers from around the world, Rose said that online is now Marks & Spencer’s largest store and while physical shops will still form part of the plan in new markets, the web will be the launchpad into them.

“For international markets the advance guard will go first but we will still open stores,” he told the World Retail Congress.

Rose said that while he didn’t use Facebook or Twitter, he was certain social networks would play a big part in the future of retailers. “They’re very important and they’re here to stay,” he said. “Treat the internet as your friend, ignore it at your peril.”

He added that consumers are demanding ever more options when it comes to how they buy. “Consumers want an endless amount of options and if you’re not in the options game you’re a loser,” he said.

Rose was confident that the measures put in place by the government in the UK, and governments in other countries, would help the global economy avoid a double dip recession. And he praised the measures introduced by George Osborne in last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. “I believe what consumers want is clarity and what the Chancellor has given them is clarity.”