London - Marks & Spencer is to close its stores in Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro as tension between Russia and Western countries is proving too great an effect on region's economies. The exit will see a dozen stores close from January, despite M&S continuing its ambitious overseas
expansion programme, which is to see a further 250 new stores open by 2017. The latest M&S store opening was in Hong Kong's Wanchai district a fortnight ago.
Economic concerns in China and Middle East affect expansion
The East European store closures are an overhaul of the group’s international strategy, spurred both by the political crisis and by wider concerns about global economic growth, especially in the wake of economic issues in China and the Middle East.
“We continue to closely manage our international business and take decisive actions as necessary to ensure our store portfolio is fit for the future of M&S,” the retailer told The Mail Online.
It said the stores to be closed ranged from 3,000 to 16,000 sq ft, adding that the change would "enable us to firmly focus on our other successful businesses in eastern Europe”, including Poland, Hungary and Romania.
In 2014, chief executive Marc Bolland said he wanted to open 250 stores abroad over the following three years. The company said that it had opened just 34 in the past 18 months.
M&S expansion plan no longer attainable
Last month, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, M&S’s marketing and international director, admitted that the three-year goal was now unattainable, saying the global climate was very different when the announcement was made.
“The world has shifted. It is a different place. The Syrian situation was very different from what it is today. Putin had not invaded Ukraine and China was growing at close to 9 percent,” he said.