Q&A: Does Marks & Spencer Franchise in the UK?

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Marks & Spencer. The retail giant has stores in every major town and city across the UK, as well as in international markets. In this article, we find out whether it offers franchising opportunities.

Marks & Spencer has a retail network of 1,035 UK stores and 428 international locations. The entire operation is run by a workforce of over 80,000 employees, working on the shop floor, in the head office and in distribution. But does Marks & Spencer franchise to execute its global expansion? Let’s find out.

History of M&S

Marks & Spencer was founded in 1884 as a small market stall in Leeds. Its owner, a Polish refugee called Michael Marks collaborated with a man called Tom Spencer in 1894, but the name ‘Marks & Spencer’ didn’t emerge until much later. Initially the stores were called ‘Penny Bazaar’. By the turn of the century, ‘Penny Bazaar’ was becoming a familiar name for British shoppers. The brand had opened 36 outlets, 12 of which were high street stores with the other 24 selling through market stalls.

The retail business has undergone many changes in the decades since it was founded. In the 1920s and 1930s, the store expanded its offering and began to sell more of ‘life’s essentials’. M&S became famous for its quality underwear – as it still is today – and sold its first bra in 1926. The store also played a part in the Second World War; M&S scientists worked alongside the British government to develop its rationing strategy.

The 1960s marked the brand’s introduction of refrigerated chickens, before convenience food really took off in the 1970s and 1980s. The store’s range of food reflected the affordability of foreign travel and new availability of exotic food for British consumers. Novel Chinese and Indian ranges diversified the store’s traditional offering. Microwave meals and boil-in-the-bag dinners also became popular.

Did you know? There are 1,035 M&S stores in the UK.

More recently, the store introduced Plan A 2020, which was created with the objective of making M&S the most sustainable major retailer in the world. The plans include a set of 100 commitments to improve its sustainability. So far, M&S has pledged to remove plastic microbeads from its own brand personal care products, exclusively use sustainably-sourced cotton and wood for its clothes and remove any discharge from hazardous chemicals used while making textiles and apparel.

Today, M&S provides a number of different services, beyond groceries and clothing, including M&S Bank and M&S Energy. The entire Marks & Spencer group sees a total turnover of over £10 billion. In-store, this is split; 61 percent of profits are made from Food and the remaining 39 percent are generated by the Clothing & Home outlets.

This is a retail brand that has truly established itself as a key player on the British high street. Selling everything from children’s clothes to workwear, kitchenware, garden furniture, flowers, champagne and store cupboard necessities, most shoppers can find what they’re looking for in M&S. And, because of its enduring reputation, the retailer is widely regarded as a place to find quality products that will stand the test of time.

Does M&S franchise?

Unfortunately, there are no Marks & Spencer franchise opportunities at the moment. However, the retailer does say that its Simply Food division has established numerous alliances with franchise partners that provide M&S’ food offering in convenient locations. These partners include WH Smith, Moto, Compass, SSP and BP. And this is only in the UK – M&S boasts an even longer list of franchise partners internationally.

How to get involved with M&S

Although Marks & Spencer franchises don’t exist, the business may want to hear from you if you own an established retail business and are interested in selling M&S products.

The partnerships M&S has forged have increased the brand’s reach. Consumers who would not otherwise have travelled to an M&S store have been introduced the brand’s offering in hospitals, petrol stations and transport hubs. This has, of course, meant that M&S can continue developing across the world. If you want to be a part of this expansion, consider getting in touch with the business via its website.

Similar franchise opportunities

As we’ve mentioned, M&S operates across the retail sector, selling food, fashion and homeware. We’ll take a look at a variety of franchises covering these areas.

Fashion franchises

Noa Noa

If you’re looking for a retail franchise opportunity like M&S, Noa Noacould be for you. This is an international fashion franchise that focuses on respecting nature through Danish design traditions.

Like M&S, Noa Noa manufactures high-quality clothing and accessories, and uses expensive fabrics such as wool, silk and organic cotton. Noa Noa doesn’t overlook the smaller details either, selling items with fabric-covered buttons, ‘lining worth showing’ and hems that are sewn by hand.

  • Becoming a Noa Noa franchisee: This franchise has a presence in over 60 concept stores and more than 400 multi-brand stores across 20 countries. It’s an exciting opportunity for investors keen to take the brand to new international locations, particularly given consumers’ increasing interest in sustainability.
  • How much you need to invest: In terms of franchise costs, you will need to make a total investment of £50,000 – £100,000.
  • What you get for your investment: Noa Noa has developed a detailed initial franchising process. This will support new members of the franchise network as they take their first steps with the business.

French Connection

Since 1972, French Connection has been supplying quality fashion and homeware to men, women and children across the world. Through its main distribution channels – retail stores, e-commerce, wholesale and licensing – the brand delivers its products to customers in more than 50 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

This high street shop offers a range of different brands available in-store and online, which include TOAST (beautifully crafted clothing and distinctive homeware), Great Plains (a fashion basics range) and YMC (modern, edgy fashion).

  • Becoming a French Connection franchisee: With around 100 brand-owned stores and 200 franchised and licensed outlets, the company has a strong presence both nationally and internationally. Now, it’s looking for investors to increase its coverage even further. When joining the brand, you will apply to open and run a franchise store in Europe, the Middle East, Asia or Australia.
  • How much you need to invest: French Connection hasn’t revealed how much it could cost to become a franchisee, but you can find out more by contacting the company.
  • What you get for your investment: Again, the fashion franchise doesn’t provide details about the franchise process, but if you’re interested in the opportunity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the business itself. Or, click here to read more.


While Debenhams is a household name in the UK, with a swathe of stores in major cities and towns, the brand is constantly working to increase the number of outlets it operates on foreign soils. Since opening its first international store in Bahrain in 1997, Debenhams has worked on establishing its global presence.

  • Becoming a Debenhams franchisee: Debenhams currently operates 240 stores in 22 countries. However, with an international web platform, the department store sells to more than 60 countries online. You can become part of this network by joining the business as a franchisee.
  • How much you need to invest: Debenhams hasn’t published information about the financial requirements of becoming a franchisee, but you can find out more by getting in touch with the company via its website.
  • What you get for your investment: Debenhams takes a proactive approach to maximise sales across its franchised stores. Working closely with franchisees, the team helps to finalise the optimum product selection on offer for each market.

Supermarket franchises

When it comes to food retail businesses, there doesn’t seem to be a franchise in the sector that offers a similar service to M&S. But, if you’re interested in running a supermarket franchise, learn more about the options open to you here.

Homeware franchises

Similarly, there aren’t many franchises that sell homeware products – although, of course, Debenhams sells items for the home as well as fashion.

But you could join a furniture franchise and sell beautifully crafted pieces that will stay in customers’ homes for years to come. If you’re interested in running a franchise with a furniture retailer, take a look at Gautier and BoConcept, which both offer profitable partnership opportunities.

Franchising in the retail sector

Find out more about becoming a franchisee in the retail sector by reading another one of our articles:

>> Read more articles on the Retail sector

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