Marks & Spencer has reported a solid if unspectacular set of results for the first half of the year as total group sales rose 3.6 per cent to £4.9bn and UK sales increased by 3.1 per cent across the same period.
Its food section saw another encouraging rise of 5.3 per cent for H1 and has now delivered 15 quarters of like-for like growth in the UK, as M&S announced plans to open an extra 150 Simply Food stores in the UK last month.
Much of the 129-year-old company‘s success is coming from multichannel (28.5 per cent) and international (8 per cent) but has made its re-launch of Womenswear its priority.
Marc Bolland, Chief Executive, said M&S would continue to invest in its business transformation for the long term.
He said: “We are pleased with the progress made, given the high level of activity and a number of key projects launching this year. This has led to a higher level of additional costs, which while planned for, have impacted short-term results.”
General Merchandise sales inched up 0.4 per cent on a total basis but shrank by 1.5 per cent on a LFL basis on weak comparisons from last year.
Kate Calvert, Analyst at Investic said the results lacked sparkle and remained coverage with a Hold recommendation. “The much awaited Womenswear A/W13 collection is yet to deliver the hoped-for magic. Admittedly, the weather may not have helped and all-important Christmas, against weak comps, is yet to come, she said.”
M&S‘s new Autumn Winter advertising campaign which featured celebrities such as Tracey Emin, Nicola Adams and Ellie Goulding has yet to make an striking impact on sales, but the ranges were only in-store for three weeks of the first half.
Bryan Roberts, Kantar Retail‘s Director of Retail Insights, said “M&S is still being severely outperformed by rivals across the board… while merchandising veers from excellent to abysmal depending on which store you happen to visit.”
Net debt increased to £2.7bn from £2.6bn for the same period last year.