Britain’s Marks & Spencer said on Thursday it would launch a wave of guest clothing brands on its website this spring, including Hobbs, White Stuff, Joules and Sloggi, in bid to accelerate online growth.

The UK’s clothing sector has been hammered by Covid-19 lockdowns, forcing retailers to rely on online channels.

M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe said last year the group, still Britain’s biggest clothing retailer by value, was shifting strategy and would sell other brands to broaden its appeal.

In September, it partnered online with Nobody’s Child and has also collaborated with Early Learning Centre. In January, M&S purchased the Jaeger brand.

It said other brands coming online through March, April and May would be: Phase Eight, Sosandar, Triumph, JACK & JONES, Seasalt Cornwall, Y.A.S. and SELECTED HOMME/SELECTED FEMME.

The first wave of guest brands would be marketed and sold under the banner “Brands at M&S”.

M&S said nearly 10 per cent of customers who have purchased Nobody’s Child women’s clothes were new to M&S womenswear.

The new brands would be available in stores in future, it said.

Meanwhile the company has expanded its global ecommerce footprint with the launch of almost 50 new websites in new overseas markets.

The British high street stalwart has launched 46 flagship ecommerce websites in new markets, instantly expanding its online reach to over 100 countries and enabling millions more customers to purchase M&S products.

When the pandemic hit, M&S was in the middle of its latest plan to improve its fortunes, including cost cuts and store closures. Rowe said those measures would be accelerated.

Marks & Spencer has revealed redevelopment plans for its Marble Arch flagship in central London that will see it downsize retail space and create offices on upper floors.

According to The Times, M&S’s flagship, located just a few blocks down from other department store flagships on Oxford Street, could be demolished and then redeveloped with reduced retail space and new offices.