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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
M&S reports strong sales
Clothes from new M&S collection
M&S has revamped its clothes
The UK clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer, has reported a stronger than expected rise in sales and predicted strong performance in the months ahead.

We still have a long way to go to recover lost ground, but I am confident that... we can secure the recovery

Luc Vandevelde
Marks & Spencer
M&S said sales in shops which were open a year ago rose 10.6% during the 11 weeks to March 30, well above predictions by analysts of a 7% rise.

In a trading statement, M&S attributed the strong sales to its marketing efforts and to the early Easter holiday.

The sales rise marked a nine-month period of strong sales performance which has helped M&S to revive its fortunes.

"We still have a long way to go to recover lost ground, but I am confident that by continuously driving improvements for our customers we can secure the recovery," said chairman and chief executive Luc Vandevelde.

Fashion revival

Growth in food sales of 4.5% was topped by a 16.6% rise in clothes and homeware sales.

I am delighted that our customers continue to react positively

Luc Vandevelde
Marks & Spencer
The rise follows a radical restructuring which has included the closure or sale of overseas branches and the revamping of its UK stores, as well as improvements to its clothes.

"I am delighted that our customers continue to react positively to the on-going improvements we are making to the appeal of our clothing and to the store environment," said Mr Vandevelde.

"More customers are visiting our stores, being tempted to buy and spending more with us."

Some analysts said M&S may find it hard to retain its sales growth if higher interest rates and higher taxes lead to weaker consumer spending in the UK.

Indeed, although the company is optimistic about the future, it has said it does not expect a summer spending spree by customers.

In London, shares in M&S rose 2.9% in early trade to 412.25p.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Business
M&S' Mr Turnaround on target
21 Feb 02 | Business
Beckham in talks to promote M&S
23 Jan 02 | Business
M&S shareholders get 2bn windfall
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