Building a business in Europe
A Marks and Spencer case study

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Page 5: Product

Marks & Spencer's activities attracted country-wide publicity. It was not simply Marks & Spencer going to Cologne, it was a British retailer going into Germany. Marks & Spencer aimed to price its products competitively. Over a two year period, the entry strategy into Germany was developed by ‘walking the market.’ This entailed customer surveys and close product examination.

Feedback from customer surveys helped Marks & Spencer ‘shape its catalogue’ for the Cologne market. This involved recognising the specific needs of the German market and putting goods on sale which closely met these requirements. It involved making specific decisions about.

  • environmental considerations
  • products with man-made fibres
  • sizes and length of clothes
  • investment in packaging and labelling
  • natural ingredients.

Although Marks & Spencer products might not be the cheapest, they would certainly be good value and of a consistent quality which would be appreciated by German customers over a period of time.


The German retail marketplace and particularly the food sector, is dominated by large organisations which lead the European ‘discount market.’ Germany has the second biggest retail organisation in the world and seven out of its top twenty companies are in retailing. To make an impact in Germany, Marks & Spencer required a prime location of around 50,000 sq. ft, communicating quality and reliability to German shoppers.

The Cologne site offered a prime pitch, next to a flagship German retailer, in a landmark building, with wooden floors and natural lighting.

PR and publicity

Internal marketing helped focus the attention of Marks & Spencer’s employees on the entry strategy into the German market. Marks & Spencer appointed agencies for advertising and public relations well before the opening of the Cologne store.

The building itself was the biggest single promotional tool. Decorations were used to enhance its character and this was supported with the strapline, ‘not a department store, a philosophy!’ The purpose of the campaign was to target the middle of the market and raise consumer perceptions of Marks & Spencer’s product positioning and communicate the company's values. Marks & Spencer also invested heavily in advertising using newspapers and magazine inserts for pre-opening announcements.

Procedures and systems

It was important to integrate the procedures and systems for the German operation with those in the UK. State-of-the-art IT systems and logistics were needed to allow Marks & Spencer to surpass the major German competitors.

Marks and Spencer | Building a business in Europe