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Marks & Spencer surprises on the upside

Half-year results from Marks & Spencer surprised analysts on the upside with a net profit of £224.3 million against last year's figure of £223.2 million. In total, revenue rose by 2.75% to just short of £4.5 billion with a 1.8% increase in UK turnover and a 12.2% increase in international operations. So does this mean the end of the recession on the high street?

While there is no doubt that Marks & Spencer has worked hard to report these figures it is worth noting that like for like sale in the UK were down 0.9%, split between a fall of 1.4% for general merchandise and 0.3% for food. The company has also taken the momentous decision to sell branded products beside Marks & Spencer's products for the first time in the company's history. Whether this is a reflection of the current marketplace, or Marks & Spencer moving with the times, it is a move which will ultimately support profitability in the short, medium and longer term.

Chairman and chief executive Stuart Rose attempted to dampen hopes of a full-blown recovery on the high street with a suggestion that this year has been competitive and his company is concerned about Christmas. There is also concern regarding 2010 which many believe could see the UK economy struggle again unless further investment is made available.

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