By  on November 11, 2013

LONDON — Marks & Spencer is pushing deeper into India.

The British retailer on Monday confirmed that it is set to have about 80 stores open in the region by 2016 as part of its strategy to become a leading international, multichannel retailer. The plan is to double its store presence in India with partner Reliance Retail, and the move will see the country become M&S’ largest market outside of the U.K.

M&S recently opened a flagship in Bandra in Mumbai, where the retailer’s chief executive officer Marc Bolland revealed the news on Monday. The Bandra store is the largest M&S unit in India, and spans 35,000 square feet over five floors. It is also home to the first new-look Marks & Spencer Lingerie & Beauty department worldwide.

Lingerie now accounts for more than a fifth of the retailer’s sales in the Indian market, with total lingerie sales increasing by a third during the last six months. According to Euromonitor, the Indian lingerie market was worth 1.8 billion pounds, or $2.86 billion at current exchange, in 2012, and is expected to grow by 54 percent by 2017.

Further M&S stores, both large-format and small-format, are set to open in Mumbai, Delhi, Surat, Kanpur and other cities. The company said it plans to capitalize on “growth opportunities” in lingerie and beauty in the Indian market, and continue to source products from South Asian suppliers.

Some 33 percent of all M&S’ general merchandise products sold worldwide are made in the region, while 64 percent of M&S products sold in India are sourced from local suppliers.

“India is a priority market for M&S, and working closely together with our partner Reliance Retail, we have set a clear plan to build a leadership position. As the nation’s leading retailer operator, Reliance Retail is the perfect partner for us in India, with extensive local expertise and experience, with strengths in infrastructure, logistics, technology and property,” Bolland said.

He added that the retailer was delivering “strong double-digit growth” in the region from its 36 stores trading from a total of over 500,000 square feet.

“We have the ideal platform to accelerate our growth in the market and see India become our largest international market outside of the U.K. by 2016,” he said.

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