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John Ryan

Store Design Is Linear, Not Stop-Start: Ask Marks & Spencer

The multinational retailer opens a new concept in the White Rose shopping centre




THE BEST STORE design is incremental, or so it would appear if U.K. mid-market food and general merchandise retailer Marks & Spencer is any kind of guide.

This is an outfit that has just opened a store that is close to 100,000 square feet in the White Rose shopping centre, a mall on the outskirts of Leeds, in the North of England. By local standards, this is a very large enterprise, but it is the interior that really does the work, irrespective of size, being the outcome of a process that has been more than three years in the making.

It started with food in South London in 2019. M&S reopened a full-line store that had been slated for closure as a grocery-only branch. It was styled to look like an indoors market, complete with baskets of fruit and veg, a whizzy pizza oven and exposed brick and woodwork, among other things. A positive effect was immediate and more of its kind followed.

Then, in spring 2022, the clothing and home design elements of a full-line M&S were looked at and adapted. This time it was in Stevenage, a town to the north of London and the store was a new one. This too proved successful and since that time the retailer has been building on what was done in Clapham and Stevenage with every new or refurbished store being a step forward along the design path.

Leeds is about a third larger than Stevenage and the clothing and home area, on the two-floor branch’s second floor, is as good as anything that you will encounter on a U.K. high street. This has been an ongoing process with every store slightly different from its predecessor, although the direction of travel has been very consistent.

A few years ago, Marks & Spencer looked like a failing endeavour. Yet the latest results show a resurgent force, one that has found its way once again. This is not about “roll-out,” as that term implies a fixed template and all stores looking the same. Instead, what M&S in Leeds shows is that a continuous forward movement as far as design, visual merchandising – and the manner in which things are done is concerned, really does pay dividends.


John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.



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