M&S to create 1,700 more jobs

Marks & Spencer announced plans to create 1,700 new jobs yesterday as it reported record profits which broke through the pounds 1bn barrier for the first time.

The jobs will be in new stores planned this year in Covent Garden, London and in Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, as well as in existing stores as it increases sales volumes and improves customer service. A further 300 jobs will be created at the financial services division in Chester.

Commenting as M&S reported an 11 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 1.1bn, Sir Richard Greenbury, chairman, highlighted growth in footwear, accessories and jewellery as well as overseas expansion as solid reasons for optimism. "We are no longer dependent on clothing and food. There are a wide array of opportunities to grow and to develop the underlying strength of the St Michael brand across the world."

Asked whether any policies of the new Labour government would have any impact on trading, he said: "We have prospered over the last 50 years under a range of governments. I see no reason why we can't prosper on this one." He said a national minimum wage would not affect the company as its lowest wage was pounds 5.70-pounds 6.50 an hour if benefits such as the annual bonus were taken into account.

In the UK, sales of clothing, footwear and gifts increased by 9.5 per cent. Though sales of menswear and ladies outerwear were strong, the childrenswear market has been more difficult.

In foods, sales increased by 5.5 per cent with M&S maintaining its market share and margins.

Investment column, page 25.