Marks and Spencer highlights signs of progress

Marks and Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland highlighted signs of progress today after the brand recorded a growth in profit for the first half of the year.

Half-year pre-tax profit fell 0.4% to £279.4m, but underlying profits rose 2.3% to £267.6m, ahead of expectations.

Group sales climbed 1% to £4.8bn, with womenswear, food and international sales all showing signs of improvement in the first five months of the year.

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M&S shares jumped 8% after the results were announced.

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

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

Sales in international business were up 1.2% on a constant currency basis to £533.7m.

M&S opened 23 stores in the first of the year and now trades from 470 stores across 56 territories.

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