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M&S to bolster its online offer

Marks & Spencer is to use its new website to offer niche sizes when it relaunches in the run-up to Easter.

Chief executive Stuart Rose revealed details of the long-awaited launch this week as the retailer posted sparkling results on Tuesday, with total clothing sales up 9.2% for the quarter.

He said the website, which will use a platform provided by Amazon.com, would offer extended sizes and options, such as suits and shoes in larger sizes that could not previously be stocked. "It gives us a great opportunity to do that," he added.

Director of ecommerce John Dixon, Rose's former executive assistant, has been given a brief to grow the £150 million turnover online business to £500m.

M&S is also undertaking a project that takes into account demographic profiles of store catchments to decide on which products are stocked, said Rose.

This is a departure from its current method, which is based on store sizes, and will mean that smaller stores in wealthier areas will stock ranges not previously seen there, such as Autograph.

Rose added that relationships with suppliers had never been better since he joined M&S in May 2004, but he refused to rule out future renegotiations over the year.

Market share across all clothing departments continues to grow significantly, with womenswear up from 10.1% to 10.9% in the 12 weeks to November 12. Lingerie rose from 12.3% to 25.6%, menswear increased 7.7% to 9.8%, while kidswear rocketed 23% to 4.8%.

13 WEEKS TO DECEMBER 20 2006Q3 total sales

General merchandise +9% (within this, clothing was +9.2%)

Food +9.5%

Total sales +9.2%

Q3 like-for-like sales

General merchandise +7.1%

Food +3.6%

Total +2.9%.

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