M&S profits up but warns over future

MARKS & SPENCER said yesterday that its sales were rising but that “it is far from clear” what impact forthcoming government cuts would have on its customers.

Like-for-like sales in the UK, which strip out the impact of sales from new stores, rose by 5.3 per cent in the three months to the beginning of October.

The company also said it had increased its market share across all parts of the business. But chief executive Marc Bolland urged caution, saying that while its older customers were braced for government cuts its younger ones were less so.

He said: “Marks and Spencer has had a good second quarter, growing market share across all parts of the business. Customers are returning to quality. However the impact of the cuts is not known and we must remain cautious.”

Bolland echoed the views of other supermarket chiefs including Tesco’s Sir Terry Leahy saying a double-dip recession was unlikely. Meanwhile, total sales across the group rose by 6.5 per cent, with international sales up 6.2 per cent.

International sales were up 6.2 per cent, driven by Asia, with sales from Greece and Ireland less impressive as their economic woes hit the high street.

The lines holding up the best have been at the top end with men’s suits performing well. Bolland added: “Customers are returning to quality in the face of economic uncertainty, especially we see that in areas such as men’s suits and knitwear. People may buy once, but they buy well.”

M&S, which serves 21m Britons a week from over 650 stores and has about 300 shops abroad, said its full-year financial expectations were unchanged as the better trading was offset by rising operating costs.

TV adverts featuring models including Lisa Snowdon in a military-style coat, have helped to boost sales. It will report its half year results for the 26 weeks ending 2 October 2010 on 9 November 2010.