Marks & Spencer teams with Microsoft to bring artificial intelligence into stores

 CREDIT: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

CREDIT: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

Marks & Spencer is turning to artificial intelligence to sharpen its appeal to customers through a "game-changing" partnership with Microsoft.

The retailer is working with AI experts at the US tech giant to explore how the technology could improve the shopping experience on the high street.

M&S was tight-lipped on how AI might be applied, but chief executive Steve Rowe said it may prove a “game changer” for the UK retail industry.

Microsoft is reportedly working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores in a challenge to Amazon’s automated shop.

Mr Rowe said: “M&S is transforming into a digital first retailer, at a time when the sector is undergoing a customer-led revolution.

“We want to be at the forefront of driving value into the customer experience using the power of technology.”

The move is part of major reboot under Mr Rowe designed to revive the company’s flagging fortunes.

M&S announced a five-year transformation plan last year aimed at “restoring the basics” and transforming its culture towards a faster, leaner and more digitally-focused business.

Mr Rowe previously criticised the retailer for having “cumbersome” and “bureaucratic” structures, and a store estate which is not “fit for the future”.

However, the overhaul has proved painful for the business. M&S was condemned to its second straight year of falling profits in May as it racked a huge bill for store closures.

Pre-tax profits plunged 62.1pc to £66.8m for the year ending March 2018, largely impacted by £321.1m of costs linked to shutting underperforming shops.

M&S is joining forces with Microsoft amid a flurry of experimentation on the high street, as retailers look to find new ways to coax customers into stores following the rise of online shopping.

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