Strong sales at M&S give High Street a boost

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At its interim results yesterday, M&S said that it made a pre-tax profit of £187.3million for the six months to October 2, compared to a £87.6million loss for the same period last year.

Its rebound was so strong that its first-half profits were 17.9 percent higher than they were pre-pandemic. It upgraded its full-year forecasts.

M&S’s first-half food sales were also up 10.7 percent on last year and 10.4 percent higher than they were in 2019.

Its clothing and homeware takings were up 17.3 percent on the same period last year and are now just one per cent behind pre-Covid levels.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “It is clear that underlying performance is improving, with our main businesses making important gains in market share and customer perception.

“The hard yards of driving long-term change are beginning to be borne out in our performance.”

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Since taking charge in 2016, Mr Rowe has modernised the company’s supply chain, which has been hit by shortages of drivers and workers in warehouses. M&S said because of its limited supplier base and a “much improved working relationship” with its logistics partner Gist, Simply Food is “well placed for these challenges”.

Russ Mould, AJ Bell investment director, said: “Food sales are doing incredibly well, particularly instore. It has really nailed the proposition with decent quality products and an ever-widening range of items.”

He said it still has some work to do regarding clothing – in particular, ensuring it has the correct mix of items to appeal to shoppers old and young.

M&S said it has made good progress with plans to modernise around 180 stores. Although the retailer says its international businesses made a “solid contribution” to its results, it took an £11.9million hit from the closure of its stores in France.

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COMMENT BY VIRGINIA BLACKBURN

The shine may have come off the M&S facade in recent years, but behind the bad headlines there have been signs it was adapting to our brave new world.

Some years ago, Marks tightened its policies on returns. The food business started stocking brands that were not its own. Credit cards, once shunned, have long been used.

It continues to innovate on the food front while the frocks (and other clothes)

look much sharper than recent slouchy shapes.

Introducing an activewear line during lockdown was inspired. Whisper it: the sparks are back at Marks.

  • Virginia Blackburn is an Express Columnist

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