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Marks sparks again as its recovery gathers pace

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Marks & Spencer is back on track to be a successful player in the UK retail sector and has posted a 28.5% increase in annual pre-tax profit to £965.2m.

The figure is not far short of the record £1bn profit it saw in 1998, just before the company began a slow decline into a failing business.

The firm reported a 6.1% increase in underlying UK sales, without the effect of new store openings taken into account, and in 240 overseas stores.

However, despite the success, some analysts have warned that with interest rates on the increase, future growth will slow. “This is an excellent result,” said retail analyst Debbie Harrison, “but the company will be hard-pressed to keep it up.”

The better performance this time around was driven by stronger demand for food and clothes, supported by an extremely well received advertising campaign featuring Twiggy, Myleene Klaas and other celebrities.

As a reward for the improvement, M&S staff will collectively receive a bonus of £90m, with £26m allocated for customer assistants.

Chief executive Philip Rose said: “The next step is broadening the business, creating new and exciting products for customers and new and exciting experiences for customers.

“We continue to improve our product ranges, offering customers better value, quality, innovation and newness.”

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