LONDON — Marks and Spencer Group plc’s net profits slumped 18.2 percent to 489.6 million pounds, or $778.5 million, in the year ended March 31, versus 598.6 million pounds, or $951.8 million, in the same period last year.
Among factors driving the net figure down were increased operating costs, due to rising rents and marketing costs; a dip in the operating profits of the firm’s owned international stores due to “macroeconomic” pressures, and one-off items such as the impairment of assets resulting from the company writing off the goodwill of its Greek business.
The gross margin in the company’s general merchandise category, which includes clothing, also dipped as a result of increased promotional activity, raw-material costs and wage inflation, the retailer said.
Group revenues during the period rose 2 percent to 9.93 billion pounds, or $15.8 billion, from 9.74 billion pounds, or $15.57 billion, in the same period last year.
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M&S said Tuesday that in light of the current market conditions, it has decreased the revenue targets it set out in late 2010. Instead of achieving revenue growth of between 1.5 billion pounds and 2.5 billion pounds, or between $2.4 billion and $3.9 billion, by 2014, the company now expects revenue growth of between 1.1 billion pounds and 1.7 billion pounds, or between $1.7 billion and $2.7 billion, by that date.
Dollar figures have been calculated at average exchange rates for the period.
While clothing sales in the U.K. rose 0.2 percent during the year, home sales fell 10 percent, as M&S exited from the technology market. Same-store general merchandise sales for the year, which includes clothing and home sales, fell 1.8 percent.
Marc Bolland, chief executive officer of M&S, said the firm had “performed well in a challenging economic environment” and held on to market share.
“While the economic environment has deteriorated since we first set out our strategic plans, we have made significant progress,” he added. “We are well on track to become a truly international multichannel retailer. By the end of this year, we will be transacting from 10 Web sites worldwide and opening around 100 international stores per year.”
Despite the fall in profits, investors responded positively to the results, as analysts noted that the firm’s underlying pretax profits had declined less than had been forecast, helped by a 50.7 million pound, or $80.1 million, boost from the firm’s share in its M&S Money Division. M&S shares closed up 1.8 percent on the London Stock Exchange Tuesday to 3.44 pounds, or $5.44.
However, analysts continued to sound a cautious note on the company. Jamie Merriman at Bernstein Research noted that the company’s revised sales goals would require M&S to gain market share. “We expect this to be difficult, given M&S’ already strong position in apparel and recent share loss in food,” Merriman said.
Freddie George at Seymour Pierce said that the firm believes “there are better investment opportunities elsewhere in the sector, and [we] consider that earnings growth is likely to be pedestrian over the next two years.”