Marks & Spencer is close to signing a deal with Indian etailer Myntra.com, which would see it selling online in the country for the first time.
The deal with India’s largest ecommerce platform would make India only the second territory where M&S sells through a third-party website. It started selling on China’s Tmall in December 2012.
The two companies have reportedly finalised the terms of the partnership and the final agreement is expected to be signed soon.
An M&S spokeswoman said: “Whilst we always look at new opportunities, we would never comment on rumour or speculation on our future business plans.”
M&S is believed to have held talks with various ecommerce firms in India including Myntra, Jabong, Snapdeal and Amazon.
Other western retail businesses that have launched on Myntra include Nike, Adidas, Benetton, Wrangler, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger.
Martin Newman, chief executive of multichannel consultancy Practicology, said India was still a small online market compared with the UK.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if M&S launches on a marketplace [in India]. If Myntra is a significant player and has a wide reach it makes sense for M&S to leverage that. However, I‘m not sure if the level of demand for online is quite there yet in India as it is a relatively fledgling market. When prioritising areas for online expansion I’m not sure I would put that into my top five.”
Stephen Springham, chief knowledge officer at retail analysis firm Planet Retail, said M&S’s physical store presence with franchise partner Reliance Retail has helped pave the way for an online launch.
“Political opposition is slightly more relaxed towards non-food operators,” he said. “M&S falls into this category and it also has the key benefit of ticking the key box in terms of market structure – it has formed a joint venture with local retailer Reliance Retail. With this platform in place, it is in a good position to exploit other channels, notably ecommerce.”
M&S operates in 54 territories across the globe, including 46 shops in India.
In November 2013, M&S chief executive Marc Bolland said the retailer wanted to have 80 Indian stores by 2016, making the country its biggest single territory outside of the UK.