Why Marks & Spencer Is Up 15% This Year

LONDON -- Marks & Spencer (ISE: MKS.L) has advanced 15% to 354 pence so far during 2012, making the share one of this year's best performers in the FTSE 100.

The venerable retailer, which operates more than 700 stores across British high streets and shopping centers, has defied the wider economic gloom with a series of resilient statements.

During January, Marks & Spencer published its all-important Christmas trading statement, which showed total sales had improved by 2%. Highlights included food sales improving 4%, online sales gaining 22%, and overseas sales advancing 8%.

Though the retailer said trading conditions remained "challenging," it confirmed full-year profits were then running in line with management expectations.

During May, Marks & Spencer confirmed annual turnover had climbed 2% to 9,934 million pounds and operating profits had dipped 2% to 810 million pounds. Earnings held steady at 34.9 pence per share and the dividend was left unchanged at 17 pence per share.

Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, summed up the full-year performance by saying:

We managed the business prudently with tight control of costs and capital investment, delivering earnings in line with last year, and substantial efficiency savings in our capital investment plans.

While the economic environment has deteriorated since we first set out our strategic plans, we have made significant progress. Our U.K. pilot stores are delivering good results, which has given us the confidence to launch phase two of the program. We are well on track to become a truly international multi-channel retailer. By the end of this year we will be transacting from 10 websites worldwide and opening around 100 international stores per year.

Then in July, Marks & Spencer published a first-quarter update that showed total sales had slipped 1%. Once again, food sales and online revenues supported the group's performance, with top-line advances of 3% and 15%, respectively.

Marks & Spencer's next update will occur on Nov. 6 with the firm's half-year results, which may reveal further resilient news.

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