MARKS & SPENCER has its mojo back by once again becoming Britain’s biggest seller of women’s clothes.
It also smashed profit forecasts and handed investors their first dividend in four years.
The high street stalwart toasted profits of £360million for the six months to the end of September, beating market expectations of £275million.
Food sales were up 14.7 per cent while its long-suffering clothing and home division enjoyed a 5.7 per cent lift.
The retailer has restored a symbolic 1p-a-share dividend for the first time since scrapping investor rewards in Covid.
Shares rose by up to 10 per cent yesterday — valuing the company at £4.9billion — a 111 per cent increase in a year.
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Boss Stuart Machin said the “mojo is back in our clothing business”.
M&S has been following Next’s example by selling third-party brands on its website, including Adidas, Clinique and Seasalt.
The retailer said it expects to sell more than 90million pieces of M&S party food between now and Christmas.
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But Mr Machin is cautious, saying: “We are not relying on tailwinds, there’s higher interest rates, deflation, geopolitical events which will make it a challenging first half.
“We have made progress but there is so much more to do.”
Chairman Archie Norman added: “We have done OK. But we are in the foothills of what we can achieve.”
CHEER AT BOOMING ’SPOONS
CHEAP pints are pulling in punters at JD Wetherspoon.
The pub chain said that sales were 9.5 per cent higher during the 14 weeks to November 5 — helped by a 10.7 per cent rise in bar sales.
Investment service Hargreaves Lansdown researcher Derren Nathan said: “It’s hard to tell whether punters are celebrating or drowning their sorrows.
“But they’re spending more.”
Wetherspoons said that the rising sales were better than the rest of the market with industry figures showing a 5.9 per cent rise for the rest of the pub sector.
Chairman Tim Martin said that while inflation had eased, energy costs remained much higher than they were before the pandemic.
Wetherspoons has 816 pubs across the country after disposing of 10 in the past quarter and opening one at London’s Heathrow airport.
INSURER ACTS ON SLAVERY
CITY firm Lloyd’s Of London has said it will allocate £52million to tackle inequality following a report on how it profited from the slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries.
The 335-year-old insurance market will invest £40million in communities affected by historical enslavement, distributed by the African Development Bank.
Another £12million will fund support for black and ethnically diverse people in insurance markets.
Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said: “I don’t think we can undo the wrongs but we can address the impacts which are still seen today.
“And racial inequality is one of those in UK society and around the world.”
The investment stops short of compensation for the descendants of victims of slavery.
LIDL CAM FOR STAFF
LIDL has become the first supermarket to kit staff out with bodycams to tackle soaring levels of shoplifting.
It will cost the budget retailer more than £2million.
Lidl is also part of Project Pegasus, an initiative between the police and large retailers that will use facial recognition technology to identify repeat offenders.
Lidl boss Ryan McDonnell said: “It is essential that the industry finds innovative ways to combat serious and organised retail crime.”
‘TOO EARLY TO TALK CUTS’
THE Governor of the Bank of England has said that it is “too early” to talk about interest rate cuts.
Andrew Bailey said the Bank would have to keep rates high “for an extended period” to bring inflation down to 2 per cent from 6.7 per cent.
It comes despite money markets pricing in the likelihood of lower interest rates next year — and days after Huw Pill, the Bank’s chief economist, saying it was “not unreasonable” to assume rates would be cut in 2024.
Higher rates are meant to dampen inflation by encouraging saving and reducing borrowing, but the Bank said last week it thought only half of its efforts had been felt by the economy so far.
Last week, the Bank voted to keep interest rates at 5.25 per cent — a 14-year high — which affects mortgage prices and borrowings, despite its own forecasts of zero economic growth next year and an easing of inflation.
THE average cost of car insurance has hit a record £561, figures from the ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH INSURANCE show.
Drivers are paying 29 per cent more than last year — with inflation, complex car tech and a lack of technicians blamed
BONUSES BAN OVER SEWAGE
WATER companies could be banned from splashing out on bonuses for bosses if they underperform, the regulator said yesterday.
OFWAT said it had reviewed the millions of pounds paid to top brass over the past three years and found firms doled them out despite not meeting targets — and the worst sewage leaks in years.
The regulator said that in the past year, senior executives had refused a bonus and other company chiefs were paid by shareholders, not customers.
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Boss David Black said: “If companies do not meet the criteria we have set out, from next year we will intervene.”
Former Thames Water boss Sarah Bentley refused a bonus this year but it was dubbed a “flimsy PR stunt”.