Marks & Spencer (M&S) is pulling out of five countries in eastern Europe, driven in part by heightened tensions between the West and Russia.
The company is leaving Croatia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, with store closures set to begin in January. The group plans to close 12 stores in total by May 2016.
The retailer's chief executive Marc Bolland said in 2014 that the group was aiming to open 250 stores overseas within three years, however last month Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, the firm's marketing and international director, said this timeframe was now unrealistic.
“The world has shifted,” he said. “The Syrian situation was very different from what it is today. Putin had not invaded Ukraine and China was growing at close to nine per cent.
"It's reasonable in that context that you would expect a different outlook on the next three years for the company."
An M&S spokesperson said yesterday: “We continue to closely manage our international business and take decisive actions as necessary to ensure our store portfolio is fit for the future of M&S. On this occasion this means closing a handful of small stores in the Balkans to enable us to firmly focus on our other successful businesses in Eastern Europe.”