Marks & Spencer profits fall on mistakes, economy


Bellwether British retailer Marks & Spencer posted a second consecutive year of falling first-half profit, reflecting mistakes in its clothing offer and the pressure facing UK consumers.

The 128-year-old group, Britain's biggest clothing retailer which also sells homewares and upmarket food, said on Tuesday it made a profit before tax and one-off items of 297 million pounds ($474.4 million) in the 26 weeks to September 29.

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That compares with analyst forecasts of 250-305 million pounds, with a consensus of 280 million pounds, according to a company poll, and a pro-forma 307 million pounds in the same period last year.

Sales from M&S' British stores open over a year were flat in the second quarter, with a 1.8 percent fall in general merchandise sales partially offset by a 1.6 percent rise in food.

The general merchandise performance represented an improvement on a 6.8 percent slump in first quarter like-for-like sales blamed on wet summer weather and stock management issues that left stores short of bestselling womenswear lines.

M&S said recent trading had been "volatile", making it cautious about the outlook for the rest of this year.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Neil Maidment)