Britain's M&S apologises after website and app hit by 'technical issue'

The Marks & Spencer logo is seen at a store near Marble Arch on Oxford Street, in London

LONDON (Reuters) -British retailer Marks & Spencer apologised to customers on Saturday after its website and app went offline for several hours because of a "technical issue".

Visitors to the group's site were from around lunchtime greeted with the message: "PLEASE BEAR WITH US. Sorry you can't shop with us right now. We're working hard to be back online as soon as possible."

A spokesperson for M&S, one of the biggest names in British business, said the website and app were back up and running as of 1700 GMT

The company said the outage was due to a third-party service provider experiencing a "technical issue" and apologised to customers "for the inconvenience caused."

Several British retailers have recently been hit by online outages.

In March, Sainsbury's, Britain's No. 2 supermarket group, apologised to customers after it couldn't fulfil online orders.

M&S unveils annual results on Wednesday and is expected to report a big jump in profit.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Giles Elgood and Timothy Heritage)