EVEN those who have never bought a share or a shirt or skirt in Marks & Spencer will have welcomed yesterday's news that the retailer had its best six months trading to September for a decade. M&S is more than a store; for a long time it symbolised good quality and stylish goods at reasonable prices and when it went into a decline ten years ago that seemed also to suggest that the values it had established were themselves under attack. The recovery has been slow and in some ways painful. Indeed, even now, chief executive
Stuart Rose refuses to use the word "recovery"; the most he will say is, "If we have a good Christmas then we can say we are in the next stage of the journey." After all that has gone before he is right to be cautious but he also let it be known that trading in October had been "in line with the first-half run rate." The half-year results are the more encouraging because they show a recovery of market share in all areas, including children's wear which achieved its first improvement for six years. M&S now has just over 10 per cent of the UK clothing market, making it the largest clothing retailer in the country. The company is now planning expansion to enhance its presence in larger city centres though this will be at the cost of the closure of some high street stores in smaller towns.


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