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Marks & Spencer to Sell Rival Fashion Brands Online in Revamp

A Marks & Spencer store in Manchester. Shutterstock.

Marks & Spencer Group Plc will start selling third-party fashion brands online as part of a wider initiative to revive its long-struggling clothing division.

The company, a household name in British retail, will launch the first wave of guest brands, including Hobbs, Jack & Jones, Joules, Sosandar and Triumph, on its website over the next three months. They will be sold alongside M&S’s existing in-house brands.

This is the latest effort by M&S to to attract new shoppers, particularly younger ones, and keep up with online competitors like Asos Plc and Boohoo Group Plc. It marks a significant change for the retailer, which since its founding in the 19th century has mainly sold its own brands. The new “Brands at M&S” strategy will give the company’s 22 million clothing customers more reason to shop on M&S.com, it said in an emailed statement.

M&S sells food and clothing online and in hundreds of stores across Britain, but has struggled for the past decade with declining profits amid tough competition and structural change within UK retail. Various management teams have tried to turn the business around, with the latest effort being led by chief executive officer Steve Rowe.

M&S said the brands will initially launch on M&S.com, with future opportunities in UK stores. Partnerships will vary from wholesale agreements to exclusive collaborations. M&S may also look to buy more labels, following its January purchase of upmarket fashion brand Jaeger.

The strategy isn’t unique to M&S. Rival Next Plc also sells third-party brands online through its Labels division. Next also recently set up a unit called Total Platform, which allows other brands to use its established IT, warehousing and logistics network for their own e-commerce businesses.

On Wednesday, Next bought a 25 percent stake in the fashion brand Reiss, which will migrate its online operations to Total Platform.

By Deirdre Hipwell

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