LONDON--British retailer Marks & Spencer is on the hunt for a PR firm to support its international growth, after handing UK duties to Grayling.

The new agency search comes as M&S steps up overseas expansion plans amid challenging UK market conditions. Marks & Spencer currently has around 400 stores across 45 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and is aiming to open a further 100 shops per year.

M&S senior PR manager Amanda Glover confirmed that a pitch was underway to identify "PR support for our international business strategy."

Glover declined to provide further details, but the Holmes Report understands that the brief focuses on the retailer's fashion offering and overall corporate reputation. Last month, the company said it will expand its international ecommerce platform, which is also thought to be a factor in the new agency search.

Glover confirmed that M&S does not currently enlist PR agency support for its international operations. She said that the pitch would take place this month.

Separately, M&S has handed regional PR duties - covering England, Wales and Scotland - to Grayling. The decision brings a close to the retailer's lengthy relationship with Beattie, following a competitive review that was revealed by the Holmes Report.

Grayling is charged with providing regional PR support for the retailer's national initiatives, along with local activities such as new store openings and product launches.

The appointment does not affect M&S relationships with with Tulchan, which handles City PR, or Unity, which works on specialist creative projects, including the recent "schwopping" campaign. 

National media remains handled in-house by the retailer's comms team in London.

Earlier this year, M&S reported its first profit decline in three years, although international sales performed well. Reports have suggested that the retailer is a private equity buyout target.