Wed, May 25, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Marks & Spencer plans store revamp amid tough market

Reuters, LONDON

British retailer Marks & Spencer plans to test new store formats more tailored to their localities as it looks to counter tough trading conditions and build on a 13 percent rise in annual profit.

Britain’s biggest clothing retailer, which also sells upmarket foods and homewares, said yesterday the new formats would sell products selected against several criteria, such as age and affluence of shoppers, and have better layout and signs.

It will start testing them from October.

Britain’s retailers are mostly struggling as shoppers are hit by rising prices and austerity measures. Clothing chains are also facing soaring cotton prices.

“We have had a good start to the new financial year, but we expect trading conditions in the year ahead to be challenging,” Marks & Spencer (M&S) said, echoing comments from rivals.

The 127-year-old group, which serves 21 million Britons a week from about 700 stores and also has more than 320, mostly franchise, shops in 41 territories, said it made profit before tax and one-off items of £714.3 million (US$1.15 billion) in the year ended April 2.

That was just ahead of analysts’ average forecast of £710 million in a company poll.

M&S saw profits plunge from about £1 billion at the start of the economic downturn. However, it has outperformed rivals recently, helped by a drive to introduce new products like stormproof suits and French-inspired Bistro ready meals.

Investors are also warming to chief executive Marc Bolland’s plan to revamp UK stores, expand online and overseas, and improve logistic and marketing — all of which have seen him make a string of high-profile management appointments.

M&S shares have outperformed the STOXX Europe 600 retail index by 6 percent this year. They closed on Monday at £3.97, valuing the business at about £6.4 billion.

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