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Marks & Spencer to Swing Axe on Paris Flagship Store

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Marks & Spencer Paris Champs-ElyseesMarks & Spencer will close its flagship store in Paris, as part of a plan to pare back the struggling retailer’s international store base.

A person familiar with the matter broke the news to Bloomberg Wednesday, though rumors began circulating in August that Marks & Spencer would retreat from European cities that have pricey rents, pointing to its Parisian store on the Champs-Élysées in particular.

Chief executive Steve Rowe is expected to update investors on the retailer’s international business on Nov. 8 as part of a wide strategy review, the source said.

The move could mark the beginning of Marks & Spencer’s second French exit, the first being in 2001 when then-CEO Luc van der Velde decided to shut down the retailer’s entire operations in mainland Europe. At that time, Marks & Spencer closed its stores in Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Marks & Spencer currently operates about 480 stores throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East, in addition to its U.K. locations, and has an online presence in 21 markets. The Champs-Élysées store opened in 2011, shortly after Rowe’s predecessor, Marc Bolland, took charge.

But according to the retailer’s annual report, released in June, revenue in its international arm decreased 2 percent in the year ended April 2 to 1.1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion). Chairman Robert Swannell blamed this decline on currency fluctuations, the slowing global economy and geopolitical unrest, as well as some operational challenges.

Rowe has been trying to cut costs throughout the organization since he stepped into the top spot in April. More than 500 jobs were cut across seven U.K. head offices last month and a further 400 IT and logistics jobs at its central London offices. Earlier this year, five directors left the business, including Costas Antimissaris, the international director.

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