Marks & Spencer looks to Hong Kong foodies for international expansion

Hong Kong will be one of Marks & Spencer's top markets, as part of its plan to expand its food business globally.

“Hong Kong is one of our priority international markets and through our new standalone food stores we’re continuing to build our presence here," Stephen Rayfield, managing director of Greater China at Marks & Spencer.

He says that introducing fresh food into Marks & Spencer stores in Hong Kong in 2009 gave the business a boost and plans are now in place to build on it.

Earlier this month, the brand opened a new 2700-square-feet food store in Shun Tak Center, attracting tourists en route from Central to the Macau ferry terminal.

Another new food store in Sheung Wan is also in the works and the brand plans to open the city's biggest food store at Kinwick Center, a whopping 4,600-square-feet store, located near the intersection between Hollywood Road and Lyndhurst Terrace, targeting well-traveled roads by tourists wanting to explore Soho and take a ride on the Central escalator.

"In Hong Kong we will continue to grow our business by capitalizing on the popularity of our fresh food offer by opening our largest Marks & Spencer Food store in Hong Kong by June 2014," Rayfield said.

Tourists are one of the brand's key target audiences. Sheung Wan, as a popular district for tourists, provides an important strategic location.

"The majority of our customers are from Hong Kong, including a mix of locals and expats, they will continue to be our key targets in the future," Janice Ngai, marketing manager Marks & Spencer Hong Kong, said.

"Sheung Wan and Kinwick are great locations to reach our target customers and increase our reach to the increasing number of tourists visiting Hong Kong."

In addition to the brand's food store in Wanchai opened in May 2010, the new stores will bring the total number of Marks & Spencer food stores in Hong Kong to three.

There are a total of 10 Marks & Spencer food stores outside the United Kingdom, with seven of those stores in Malta, Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland.

Last year, the brand's international food sales went up by 8% to £300 million compared to 2012.

The focus on tourists is also consistent with the brand's big plans for Paris, which the brand hopes to turn into their largest food market outside the UK, with 20 food stores in the works over the next three years, according to a press release published on 1 April.

Half of those new stores will be run by their franchise partner Relay France targeting popular travel locations in the popular French capital in the next four years.

The brand aims to raise international profits by 40% in the next three years.