Research to drive international retail models


The University of Leeds is working with Marks & Spencer on new research into innovation in international business models, which aims to drive opportunities for economic growth and expansion in retail.

Using a £200,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, experts from Leeds University Business School (LUBS) will look into a range of retail operating models, such as franchise partnerships or joint ventures in emerging markets. The research will determine the drivers of success internationally within the context of cultural and institutional factors.

The project will be informed by Marks & Spencer’s growing International business, as M&S aims reduce its dependency on the UK economic cycle to become a leading international, multi-channel retailer. Marks & Spencer now has over 450 international stores in over 50 markets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as being online locally in ten markets.

LUBS will apply M&S’s knowledge and understanding of international markets and how it has adapted its approach to suit different territories, as well as engaging its strategies on future growth.

Focusing on the Middle East, Russia and Turkey – key strategic markets for M&S – the results of the year-long project will be a valuable contribution to the retail sector. The findings will be made available for UK businesses looking for sustainable international growth strategies to retain their competitive positions in the market, enhancing future prospects for the UK economy.

Professor Richard Thorpe, Pro-Dean for Research and Innovation at LUBS, said: “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with M&S to deliver research that will outline a best practice approach to international business models in retail. M&S has been one of the UK’s great success stories internationally, so this research will give us the opportunity to share knowledge to inform economic growth.”

Steve Finlan, Director of International Operations at M&S, said: "We’re delighted to be working in collaboration with the University of Leeds on this innovative international research project. As we continue to make the M&S brand even more accessible to customers around the world, we understand the importance of choosing the right business model for each market. We hope our experience of trading in markets like the Middle East, Turkey and Russia will provide the team with the valuable insight into retailers operating internationally.”

Professor Mat Robson, Professor in the Marketing Division at LUBS, is leading the project. He said: “It was immediately clear from discussions with the International team at M&S that we could create real synergies with them through this project. This is a truly exciting opportunity to create and exchange cutting-edge knowledge on a business mode that could prove crucial to UK retailers as they seek to internationalise.”

A unique partnership exists between M&S and the University of Leeds which was initially formed in 2009. The M&S Company Archive and an exhibition charting the history of the company, Marks in Time, are based on the campus and the partnership represents a new model of engagement between industry and education focusing on research and innovation.

The concept of an operational division of M&S working alongside academics on a leading University campus has opened up possibilities for partnership activity across multiple channels, including mutual priority areas such as research, student engagement and community outreach.

Further information

Professor Mat Robson is available for interview. Please contact Ben Jones, Press Officer, on 0113 343 8059 or email