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M&S launches ‘world first’ virtual rail as centrepiece of Netherlands strategy

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What is billed as the world’s first virtual rail is the centrepiece of a Marks & Spencer e-boutique that opened its doors in Amsterdam this week.

The e-boutique is part of a 500 sq m multichannel M&S store on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat that follows in the footsteps of M&S’digital-driven Cheshire Oaks store (pictured). The new Amsterdam concept store features digital innovations including what M&S says is the world’s first virtual rail. The rail, made of three stacked 46” screens and three physical rails, each holding 50 clothing samples, will showcase the latest trends, updated every six weeks. It sits alongside order points, a range of screens and style advisers equipped with iPads.

As well as the store, M&S also launched today a new local currency Dutch website featuring local delivery options (free delivery for orders of €49 and above) and payment options, including Visa, Mastercard and iDEAL, complemented by a mobile optimized site. M&S yesterday launched a website for Luxembourg.

The openings are part of a clicks and bricks strategy for the Netherlands which continues a similar approach taken in the French market in 2011 and underpins M&S’ aim of becoming a leading international and multichannel retailer.

Marc Bolland, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, said the move was in response to “huge” customer demand for its products in the Netherlands, evidenced through high numbers of orders from the UK website. “We’re coming back in a new way,” he said, “because Holland is one of the most internet savvy countries in Europe. We are therefore launching our new website and a brand new e-Boutique as a first step towards rolling out a number of stores in the Netherlands.”

Laura Wade-Gery, executive director, ecommerce multichannel at M&S, said: “The Netherlands has embraced online shopping – customers adore the ease and convenience of buying clothes this way, which is why we were determined to return with our very latest multichannel thinking.” She said the “innovation, aspirational” e-Boutique allowed the retailer to offer its latest fashions from a store with a much smaller footprint, and brought, together with the mobile and online sites, a “truly unique experience to the M&S customer here in the Netherlands.”

M&S is also to pilot its M&S Simply Food format at BP petrol stations in the country, and plans to open new a 4,800 sq ft full-line store in The Hague in 2014 followed by a 6,100 sq ft store at Amsterdam’s The Rokin in 2015.

M&S now has more than 410 international stores in 48 markets across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It also operates dedicated websites in 10 overseas markets.

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