Shares in Marks & Spencer opened more than eight per cent higher this morning, after it posted expectation-beating half-year results - even though group profits before tax fell 0.4 per cent on the same period last year.
In the the 26 weeks to 27 September, like-for-likes in clothing and general merchandise fell 2.2 per cent and 2.9 per cent on a like for like basis. It's the 13th consecutive quarter general merchandise sales (which were only split into "clothing" and "general merchandise" recently) have fallen - but both figures were above analyst expectations.
Food sales rose, but it wasn’t just any rise. It was a small one: one per cent on a like for like basis.
There was some good news. Sales of womenswear, which has struggled over recent years, rose 1.3 per cent in the first five months of the financial year, before the old line about unseasonable weather came in. Like Next, M&S said warm weather this autumn had hit its figures, by 1.3 per cent.
Like for likes in its food business rose one per cent. From the report:
We expect our food business to continue to outperform the market with a higher number of new Simply Food stores planned over the next three years, up to 200 from 150 previously guided.
On a quarterly basis, like-for-likes stayed flat, while clothing declined 3.4 per cent and food managed an anaemic rise of 0.2 per cent.
M&S has had a torrid time in recent years, with sluggish growth in profit before tax:
This year it has not only underperformed against the market, but has also been shown up by competitor Next, which has been consistently above the FTSE this year.