M&S expected to announce strongest Christmas in years

M&S busy shopfront during Christmas trading
Shareholders hope for positive news when the Christmas trading update is announced on Thursday 13 January
// M&S is expected to reveal its strongest Christmas trading in years this Thursday
// The retail chain’s share price has risen by almost 80% throughout 2021

Marks & Spencer is expected to reveal its strongest Christmas in years later this week, following a succession of positive trading results over recent months.

The high street giant has seen its fortunes turn around over the last 12 months, despite dropping out of the FTSE 100 earlier this year, with its share price rising by almost 80% in 2021 following major transformation plans.

Shareholders will be hoping the positive news will continue when the Christmas trading update is announced on Thursday 13 January.

M&S posted two positive profit upgrades in the second half of 2021, allowing investors to remain hopeful despite the impact of Covid-19 restrictions introduced in the run-up to Christmas last month.

The November trading update saw M&S crediting its ‘Never the Same Again’ transformation plan – which launched in 2020 and included the closure of dozens of stores – for helping to set it on the path to recovery.

Those results revealed that food sales in the six months to October rose by 10.7% year-on-year, while clothing and home sales surged by 67%, boosted by continued online growth.

Read more: M&S lifts guidance as food sales surpass pre-pandemic levels

A strong Christmas could be the latest sign that the retailer’s turnaround programme has set it on the right course. The retailer invested heavily in the festive period, with a TV advertising campaign including an animated Percy the Pig, voiced by Spider-Man star Tom Holland.

A slump in footfall prior to Christmas following the rise in Covid cases may have taken the steam out of store sales, but rising food sales across grocery stores, as highlighted by Kantar figures earlier this week, could offset this impact.

“M&S does not often comment on profits at this stage,” said financial analyst Danni Hewson.

“However, Steve Rowe upgraded guidance for profits before exceptional items and tax to around £500 million for the year at the first-half stage.

“No doubt the third-quarter statement will be scoured for any affirmation of, or change, to that figure.”

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