LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - British retailer Marks & Spencer is expanding its free "click & collect" service to more than 100 of its Simply Food franchise stores, just days after rival John Lewis said it planned to start charging customers.
The expansion of the in-store collection service for goods ordered online, to incorporate franchise partners SSP and MOTO, would allow customers to pick up their orders at locations including railway stations, airports, motorway service stations and hospitals, M&S said on Monday.
Employee-owned John Lewis said last week that from July 28 online orders for products costing less than 30 pounds ($46.7), for delivery to John Lewis or Waitrose stores would carry a 2 pound charge. It said the current free service was unsustainable.
M&S already offers a full click & collect service, which it calls "Shop Your Way", at over 300 of its stores, enabling customers to order, collect and returns items. Customers can also collect orders from the firm's 200 wholly owned M&S Simply Food stores.
"Store collection is incredibly popular, with over half of orders picked up from our stores," said David Walmsley, director of M&S.com.
"By extending the service to locations such as railways and service stations, which may form part of customers' daily journey, we hope to make it even easier and more convenient for them to shop with M&S."
The move comes a day before M&S publishes a first quarter trading update and holds its annual meeting.
The firm is expected to report that underlying sales in its non-food business fell in its latest quarter, dashing investor optimism that a corner had finally been turned when it delivered growth in the previous three months.
Shares in M&S, up 26 percent over the last year, were up 2 percent at 550 pence. ($1 = 0.6427 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Keith Weir)