Marks & Spencer will report improved summer trading this week. More resilient retail sales, a better food performance and the weakness of recession-struck suppliers are behind what is expected to be an up-beat statement. The word is that its executive chairman, Sir Stuart Rose, wants to make his last full year at M&S look good.
M&S shares have outperformed the market since July, rising from just over 300p to touch 384p before falling back to 369p on Friday. Most analysts have bumped up their forecasts for the full year to £550m-£600m for profit before tax – about the same as last year.
Although the delicious but pricey food offer may be suffering as some cash-strapped shoppers have traded down, growth is believed to be staid rather than disastrous.
Under John Dixon the company has thrown money at price promotions such as the "Dine in for two for £10" and "Wise Buys". Clothing margins have benefitted from shrewd buying as suppliers have struggled to drive hard bargains.
Mr Dixon's recent promotion to the board has led to speculation that he is being put head to head with the finance director, Ian Dyson, for the chief executive's job when Sir Stuart finally steps down.
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