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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 14:17 GMT
M&S kickstarts 2002 with new range
Clothes from new M&S collection
M&S: Christmas trading figures are keenly awaited
Marks & Spencer has launched its spring womenswear collection, a range analysts say is crucial for the High Street chain's attempts to revive its fortunes.

It is the first entire collection created by Yasmin Yusuf, the company's new creative director, who was brought in last year from Warehouse.

M&S new collection
Thumbs up from the fashion press for new range
It follows the launch of Per Una last September - M&S's first range designed by fashion guru George Davies - which was perceived to be a success.

The arrival in the shops of the spring collection comes the week before M&S reveals how sales performed in the vital Christmas trading season.

Top in 2001

Many analysts are confident that the chain will report like-for-like sales up about 4% from a year previously, confirming that turnaround of the business is well underway.

Pre-tax profits had slumped to 481m for the year ended 31 March 2001, their lowest since 1987 and 14% down on the previous year.

But professional investors have been alive for several months to the revival taking place at the former High Street darling.

M&S new collection
Luc Vandevelde had said he'd go unless new range did well
M&S shares were 2001's top performer on the FTSE 100 index of leading shares, gaining more than 90%.

In Monday afternoon trading, the shares were down 1p at 375p.

This compared with last October's low of 170p and October 1997's high of 664.5p.

Executive chairman Luc Vandevelde had promised to resign by February - two years into his contract - unless a clear improvement in the business was apparent.

Riviera holiday

M&S said the spring collection would provide "a return to the classics with an emphasis on easy glamour".

The clothes, which will be divided into "Riviera" and "Holiday" ranges, have already received the thumbs-up from much of the fashion press which was treated to a preview show in November.

"What's so interesting about our customers is that they are looking for newness all the time. All we have done is translate that newness into this launch," said Steve Longdon, M&S director of womenswear.

The collection is being phased in over several months and, in another departure from tradition, stock will be changed every four to six weeks rather than 12.

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