M&S: No shirts, sandwiches or chicken tikka massala for Nice

Back in 1992 this magazine welcomed Marks and Spencer to Nice (Reporter 39, cover) and this very British retail presence was welcomed with enthusiasm by many readers, including some French women who had frequented the Marble Arch store and others (they were known as the most persistent shoplifters after the Iranians). The company’s deputy chairman, then a Monaco resident, declared that they were “pioneers in this kind of global retailing”.

Marks and Spencer SconesPhoto: Marks and SpencerAlas, that pioneer trail came to an abrupt end when group profits plummeted and soon wholly-owned stores were closed across Europe (though I recall coming across franchises in Gibraltar and Bermuda). The Nice branch was shuttered in 2001. Although another expat paper has said it was “a huge success”, it in fact performed rather badly – much of the food and clothing had little appeal for most French and management was not always up to a challenging task.

Then in 2007 company chief executive Stuart Rose announced a return to Europe. Readers contacted us to ask when the Nice store would rise from the dead. A cautious PR executive told us to urge our readers “to curb their enthusiasm”. Paris opened just over a year ago and has done very well, especially with food – top sellers are chicken tikka masala and BLT sandwiches – and men’s clothing. Other openings are planned in the Paris area but, faced with disappointing results on the UK High street, any projects for Nice and other provincial cities are far back on the burner.