UK retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) has reported that it experienced 12 consecutive quarters of sales growth, as its investments begin to “pay off”.

In the 52 weeks ended 30th March, M&S achieved a profit before tax and adjusting items of £716.4 million, up on the 2022/23 rate of £453.3 million. Its statutory profit before tax was £672.5 million, up from £475.7 million in 2022/23.

Food sales were up 13%, with its adjusted operating profit hitting £395.3 million with a margin of 10.3%. This was up from the previous year’s adjusted operating profit of £248 million.

Trading momentum puts “wind in sails”

The retailer said that its food category had achieved “market-leading” volume growth, and said it had “strong innovation” whilst “broadening customer appeal”.

Stuart Machin, chief executive for M&S, said: “Two years into our plan to Reshape for Growth we can see the beginnings of a new M&S. Food and Clothing & Home grew volume and value share ahead of the market and sales increased across stores and online. Both businesses have now delivered 12 consecutive quarters of sales growth and this trading momentum gives us wind in our sails, and confidence that our plan is working. We are becoming more relevant, to more people, more of the time.

“We remained unswerving in our commitment to trusted value, offering customers exceptional quality at the very best price. Food’s leading quality perception increased even further with over 1,000 products upgraded and 1,300 new lines launched. Continued progress was made on value perception with £60m invested in price.

“Investment in store rotation and the end-to-end supply chain is beginning to pay off. New stores and renewals are performing ahead of forecast and attracting new customers. Supply chain modernisation supported margin growth across both businesses.”

M&S said its free cash flow had reached £423.7 million, up from the previous rate of £170.4 million.

Machin said: “Disciplined capital allocation underpins our plan, and the financial health of the business is as strong as it’s been in decades. Free cash flow has increased, financial net debt has been eliminated, and returns on investment have improved. The strength of the balance sheet, coupled with the sustained improvement in performance, means we have the headroom and confidence to invest for future growth as well as introduce a 3p dividend.

“We have made progress on ‘hardwiring’ sustainable change – how and when we execute our strategic priorities – with progress in store rotation and supply chain. However, we need to move faster and be ruthlessly challenging on the areas where progress has been slower, building a more effective digital and technology infrastructure, accelerating the move to a truly personalised customer experience, and resetting priorities in International.”