M&S surprises with rise in first-half profits

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Marks & Spencer today reported another fall in clothing sales but surprised the City with a rise in profits for the first half of the year.

Chief executive Marc Bolland pointed to an improving trend in womenswear following “increasingly positive feedback” from customers, although like-for-like clothing sales were still down 2.2 per cent in the six months to September 27.

M&S said its food business continued to outperform the wider market ,with a 1 per cent rise in like-for-like sales, despite the competition impacting on supermarket rivals.

Bolland added: “M&S delivered sales growth and increased profit in the first half despite a tough market, particularly in September.

“We are pleased with the progress we have made against our key priorities for the year: general merchandise gross margin, improving womenswear, driving food growth and cash generation.”

Across the group, total sales rose 1 per cent to £4.9 billion and underlying profits grew 2.3 per cent to £268 million, ahead of analysts’ expectations of £252m.

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