M&S reports a jump in overall underlying profit for the first time in four years, but questions remain over the performance of non-food sales and what CEO Mark Bolland will do about it. Axel Threlfall reports.
A mixed bag for Marks and Spencer this morning, a jump in overall underlying profit for the first time in four years - improving margins, a raised dividend. But, and it's a big "but", a thirteenth straight quarterly drop in underlying non-food sales. Well the market went with the positives, the stock jumped 7 percent at the open. Market clearly liked the 3 percent jump in the dividend to 6.4 pence. Food, which adds over half of group sales, looked robust, no great surprises there, but the question has to be: "What now for non-food and that clothing team set up in 2012, who have failed to deliver a sustained increase in sales?" Marc Bolland, CEO since 2010, who set up the clothing squad, has spent over 2.3 billion pounds addressing decades of underinvestment which included store, website and marketing revamps. Market will be watching out for anything new from the CEO. For now though, they're bidding up a stock which is down 20% since the end of February.