M&S holds talks over food brief

Marks & Spencer is in talks with agencies over a PR campaign for its upmarket ‘Simply Food’ shops amid ambitious expansion plans.

The move would represent a rare foray into hiring external support by a company that has traditionally handled its consumer PR
in-house.

Simply Food is increasing its presence on UK high streets following last month's purchase of 28 Iceland stores for £38m. The stores increase the number of Simply Food outlets to 171, highlighting M&S's commitment to expanding the brand.

The deal followed an impressive Christmas period in which the retailer reported high-than-expected food sales. In November it was revealed M&S had plans to place Simply Food stores in up to 300 BP petrol stations around the UK. It is planning a trial run of eight of these stores later this year.

M&S also intends to increase its franchising operation, which currently runs Simply Food stores in motorway service stations, railway stations and at Heathrow. Troubled catering giant Compass has franchised at least 30 stores in the UK and M&S has not ruled out opening new stores abroad.

M&S declined to comment.

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