BIO Market News
Marks & Spencer has brought a small slice of the British high-street to Central Asia by opening a store in Almaty, the financial centre of Kazakhstan.
The three–storey shop occupies a site in the city’s redeveloped shopping centre, which also hosts other Western brands such as Gap and Zara.
On Monday afternoon, three days after the store opened for business, a handful of Kazakh shoppers inspected the different clothes in the shop. Most were simply curious.
“I’m impressed,” said Lena, 28, as she browsed through the women’s pyjama section. “These clothes are for middle-income people like me, they’re not too expensive.”
Similarly to its other overseas shops, Marks & Spencer’s premium Autograph range dominates the store.
Jan Heere, Marks & Spencer’s international director, said the Almaty store opening was in line with the company’s overseas expansion policy.
“With over 40 stores in Russia and Ukraine, our new Kazakh store builds on our established presence in the region which we will continue to grow over the next few years,” he said in a statement.
Marks & Spencer now has 390 overseas stores spread out across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
It operates through franchise agreements with local partners, a strategy that allows Marks & Spencer to access local knowledge and spread risk. In Kazakhstan, Marks & Spencer has teamed up with Al Hokair, which owns a series of shopping malls across the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.
Part of the Marks & Spencer attraction for Kazakh shoppers is its British heritage, associated with old-fashioned steadiness and quality.
Aiganym, 20, was on a shopping trip to the store with her mother Irina, 50.
“We’ve heard it’s good quality,” she said. “It’s a classic collection for all ages.”
The British aspect pervades the Marks & Spencer store.
A full-length photograph of Jamie Redknapp, the ex-England footballer, modelling beachwear hangs in the men’s section.
There was no sign, though, of Marks & Spencer’s new Shwopping campaign, featuring the actress Joanna Lumley, which aims to persuade shoppers to drop off an unwanted item of clothing each time they shop at a store.