M&S recovery plan sends shares to 12-month high

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The Independent Online

Marks & Spencer is planning to boost its financial services division while also expanding its food business with a trial of convenience stores at major railway stations, the company said yesterday.

Marks & Spencer is planning to boost its financial services division while also expanding its food business with a trial of convenience stores at major railway stations, the company said yesterday.

Roger Holmes, managing director of UK Retail, said consumers were "burning themselves out" securing a lifestyle that included home ownership, product acquisition and travel. He said other areas such as healthcare and pensions had been "under-funded" and that there was an opportunity for M&S to meet these needs. M&S said it would look to expand its loan interests rather than offer health insurance policies directly.

The comments came at a series of presentations in London where M&S tried to highlight its recovery programme while also showing how growth could be secured in the longer term. The presentations followed results earlier this month when the company recorded its first increase in profits for three years.

A key growth area will be foods, the company said. It has already announced plans to open another 20 of its Simply Food convenience store concept after a successful trial of two sites since July. Yesterday, it said it would start a trial of four Simply Food outlets on railway stations under a joint venture with Compass, the catering group which operates the Bakers' Crust outlets at railway stations. The trial will include branches at the Victoria, Marylebone and Liverpool Street stations in London and sell 1,000 lines including ready-made meals, beer and wine.

In clothing, the Per Una range, designed by George Davies, will be in 90 stores by the start of December with another 40 branches earmarked to stock the range. Mid-season sales will become a regular feature of the M&S calendar in April and October to clear stock so ranges can be introduced more regularly. Yasmin Yusuf, the new creative director, said M&S clothing buyers had been encouraging her design team to get a better feel for what customers want by sending designers to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London and others to the Chelsea Flower Show.

The City was impressed, sending M&S shares up 10p to a 12-month high of 343.5p.Nick Bubb at SG Securities, said. "It was slightly short on detail, but long on confidence. The recovery is building and I'm sure there will be (profit) upgrades."

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