Marks & Spencer will trial an online food delivery service in the autumn of this year

 
Rebecca Smith
The retailer has an eye on delivering
The retailer has an eye on delivering food as its next development (Source: Getty)

Marks & Spencer is planning to trial an online food delivery service later this year, after admitting it can't continue to ignore the fastest-growing segment of the UK's grocery market.

The supermarket does sell a limited selection of alcohol on its website, along with party food, but this will mark its first attempt at offering a wider grocery selection.

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"We continue to review food online carefully," chief executive Steve Rowe said, in comments first reported by the Guardian.

It has not cost us anything over the last five years by not being online with food. Our customers haven't moved yet, but they will and we need to ensure that we are ready with the right response.

There are unanswered questions over what this means for M&S and we have a team looking at this now with a view to undertaking a soft trial in the autumn.

Senior executives were told of the plan at a meeting in Wembley on Wednesday.

M&S is different from other food retailers with a narrower selection; it stocks 7,000 products compared to the 40,000 found at most Tesco shops and 30,000 at Sainsbury's.

Extensive trials will take place before M&S introduces a wider online grocery service.

"The economics of food online are not straightforward and it is not something that we are going to rush into until we have substantial customer insight and a better understanding of what is right for M&S and right for our customers," Rowe added.

M&S boss Rowe has been tasked with improving profits at the retailer since taking the reins in April of last year. While the food business has been in healthy shape, the clothing arm has been trickier to bolster.

Last year Rowe announced plans to close 30 UK stores and switch 45 more into food-only shops as a way of trimming the amount of shopfloor space dedicated to clothing.

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