Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Marks & Spencer PLC is hitting the discount trail.
The U.K. retailer, which has been struggling against increased competition, has announced plans to open as many as three outlets this fall. A Marks & Spencer spokesman said there could eventually be up to 10 outlets throughout the U.K.
The company spokesman said the move reflects the outlet shopping boom in the U.K. — which currently has 29 outlet malls and another 11 planned — and is not a red flag signaling excessive inventories. U.K. outlets currently represent about $2 billion a year in sales, with the leading operator being BAA MacArthur Glen.
The leading designer outlet operator is Bicester Village, with stores such as DKNY, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap and Joan & David. Zegna and Ferragamo are expected to open outlets in the mall later this year.
“It’s a reaction to the market and the fact that all our competitors now have outlets,” the Marks & Spencer spokesman said. “We felt that we have a great offer and we could do it easily ourselves.”
The stores are expected to sell mainly Marks & Spencer’s men’s, women’s and children’s wear. The retailer currently clears most of its unsold inventories through sales, although some of its suppliers operate outlets. These stores sell styles carried by Marks & Spencer but don’t have the St. Michael or Marks & Spencer label, the spokesman said.

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