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The University of Leeds and Marks & Spencer work on new research to drive opportunities for economic growth and expansion in retail

Leeds, UK, 2014-2-17 — /EPR Retail News/ — The University of Leeds is working with Marks & Spencer on new research into innovation in international business models, which aims to drive opportunities for economic growth and expansion in retail.

Using a £200,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, experts from Leeds University Business School (LUBS) will look into a range of retail business or operating models, such as franchise, wholly owned or joint ventures, in emerging markets. The research will determine the drivers of success internationally within the context of cultural and institutional factors.

The project will be informed by M&S’s diverse and established franchise model, which is the major focus of its international business and aims to reduce the company’s dependency on the UK economic cycle. All of M&S’s stores in the Middle East operate using this model and the company works in partnership with organisations such as Relay France in Paris, BP in the Netherlands and Supermarkets 1960 in Malta, which is a relationship that dates back to 1962. Approximately 36% of M&S’s international revenues in 2011/2012 came from its franchise operations and it now aims to grow this to 50%.

LUBS will apply M&S’s knowledge and understanding of international cultures and markets and how it has adapted its approach to suit different territories, as well as engaging its strategies on future growth to become a leading international multi-channel retailer.

Focusing on United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey, the results of the year-long project will be a valuable contribution to the retail sector. The findings will be made available for UK businesses looking for sustainable international growth strategies to retain their competitive positions in the market, enhancing future prospects for the UK economy.

Professor Richard Thorpe, Pro-Dean for Research and Innovation at LUBS, said: “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with M&S to deliver research that will outline a best practice approach to international business models in retail. M&S has been one of the UK’s great success stories internationally, so this research will give us the opportunity to share knowledge to inform economic growth.”

Steve Finlan, Director of International Operations at M&S, said: “Our knowledge of individual markets, their motivations and challenges has been developed over more than 50 years and we are pleased to be able to share this expertise to deliver future economic benefit, giving back to the retail sector and learning more ourselves. As businesses seek to reduce their dependency on the UK economic cycle, we recognise that sustainable international expansion is vital and, as a business, it remains one of our important growth areas to become a leading, multi-channel retailer around the world.”

Professor Mat Robson, Professor in the Marketing Division at LUBS, is leading the project. He said: “It was immediately clear from discussions with the international team at M&S that we could create real synergies with them through this project. This is a truly exciting opportunity to create and exchange cutting-edge knowledge on a business mode that could prove crucial to UK retailers as they seek to internationalise.”

A unique partnership exists between M&S and the University of Leeds which was initially formed in 2009. The M&S Company Archive and an exhibition charting the history of the company, Marks in Time, are based on the campus and the partnership represents a new model of engagement between industry and education focusing on research and innovation.

The concept of an operational division of M&S working alongside academics on a leading University campus has opened up possibilities for partnership activity across multiple channels, including mutual priority areas such as research, student engagement and community outreach.

M&S was founded over 129 years ago and currently has over 770 UK stores and over 430 international stores across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company has 250 franchise stores in 31 territories around the world.

Further information 

Professor Mat Robson is available for interview. Please contact Ben Jones, Press Officer, on 0113 343 8059 or email


The University of Leeds and Marks & Spencer work on new research to drive opportunities for economic growth and expansion in retail


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