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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 17:00 GMT
M&S unveils profit jump
The Per Una range
The new Per Una range is boosting sales
Marks & Spencer has reported a 20% increase in profits for the six months to the end of September.

The retail giant made 220m, a figure at the top end of analysts' expectations.

The profit boost reflects the trading statement released by M&S last month which showed an overall rise in sales of 2.8%.

Although the figures do not cover October, chairman and chief executive Luc Vandevelde said customers seemed to be responding positively to the changes made by his management team.

He added there had been "no deterioration" in sales over the past month despite milder weather and falling consumer confidence.

'Good progress'

The company said the initial response to its Per Una range of womenswear had been "very positive", although it is too early to see this in the recent figures.

M&S said it was on course to upgrade 100 stores by the end of the year.

"We are making good progress against the restructuring strategy and recovery plan we announced at the end of March," said Mr Vandevelde.

"Our focus on UK retail is showing early results and the restructuring programme is proceeding well."

He added: "I am encouraged by the progress we have made and am confident that the strength of the M&S, together with the value and quality of our improved offer, give us a firm base on which to build."

'No dip in confidence'

Mr Vandevelde told financial website Cantos that M&S had not seen the dip in consumer confidence reported by some UK retailers.

"I must say that, so far at least, we have not seen any deterioration of our sales performance versus the second quarter trading statement," he said.

M&S was better placed to weather a recession than other retailers because its products were more durable and better value, he added.

Verdict Research said on Monday that UK retailers were in for the toughest ever year in 2002, as consumer confidence stuttered.

In the City, M&S shares closed 10.25p higher at 311.5p.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"For 3 years Marks and Spencers have been in the slow lane"
Chief Executive of M&S Luc Vandevelde
"We are indeed very much encouraged by the financial results"
See also:

02 Nov 01 | Business
Marks & Spencer sells Spanish stores
31 Oct 01 | Business
M&S in 348m property deal
16 Oct 01 | Business
M&S sells French stores
09 Oct 01 | Business
M&S shares test two-year highs
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