Marks & Spencer (M&S) has unveiled plans to expand its specialist food stores both on a national and international basis.

The company announced what it described as a "significant expansion" of its M&S Simply Food store network with 150 new stores being planned for the UK. It also confirmed a franchise partnership with Relay France which will see ten outlets being open in and around Paris by 2018, with the first earmarked for summer 2014.

M&S currently has a foothold in the French market with a flagship store being opened on the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris in November 2011. It was opened by international supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and chief executive Marc Bolland. Following the success of this outlet M&S is now looking to make inroads in the food market.

In the UK, the company is aiming to expand its Simply Food network with the addition of 150 stores over the next three years. Officials explained that half of the outlets will be 2,000 sq ft and operated within the firm's existing franchise partners.

M&S currently has agreements in place with the likes of BP, SSP and Moto which means it can take advantage of convenience locations such as motorway service stations, train stations, petrol stations, airports and hospitals.  

Mr Bolland said: "Our food business has gone from strength to strength under our plans to transform M&S. We've delivered 15 quarters of like-for-like growth in the UK and have opened food stores in cities like Amsterdam and Paris. We’re delighted to be partnering with Relay France to drive our international ambition even further."

The move is also set to boost employment opportunities across the country with M&S expected to create 5,000 new retail jobs once the stores are delivered. Among the new stores opening in the next year are Leigh, Greater Manchester, Cramlington, Northumberland, and Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

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