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M&S unveils premium range as profits soar

Marks & Spencer is launching its most premium range yet, with a limited edition collection that will go into its five top stores in September.

The retailer gave a sneak preview of the Autograph Exclusive range this week, as it reported that profits had soared 28.5% to £965.2 million against sales of £8.59 billion, up 10.1% for the year to March 31.

It is yet to decide on pricing or how many pieces will be in the collection, but a spokeswoman said it would focus on "beautiful fabrication" and be a "stand-out statement" for M&S. It will go into the top five stores nationwide, including the flagship store at London's Marble Arch.

Womenswear and lingerie director Kate Bostock said M&S would provide something "very special". "Each item is limited in number, and the very best fabrics, including pure cashmeres, silks and finest leathers, will create must-have items that women will love to have in their wardrobes and keep for years to come," she said.

The range will include a Grecian-style cream dress, a draped-jersey wedding dress with gold shoulder embellishment, and a purple fitted silk dress with Nehru collar.

In July, M&S is launching a new brand, Skinkind, for men, women and children who suffer from sensitive skin. The label will mostly comprise babywear, T-shirts and underwear.

Chief executive Stuart Rose said this week that he was happy with M&S's mix of sub-brands, adding that it was not planning to launch any more own labels for next season.

He also told Drapers he planned to increase open-to-buy budgets - which he introduced to allow buyers to make more in-season decisions - from 15% at present to 25%.

Ecommerce will be a key growth area. Online sales currently run at £160m but are on track to hit £500m in three years. They have risen 60% on last year and Rose said they were up "by at least that" since M&S relaunched its website last month.

There are also plans to use the website to sell more niche products, from larger suits and footwear to GG and H bra sizes.

M&S AT A GLANCE

- Total sales up 10.1% to £8.59 billion

- UK sales up 9.7% to £7.98bn

- Pre-tax profit up 28.5% to £965.2m

- Clothing sales up 9.2%

Market share (value)

Total clothing/footwear: up 6.7% to 11.1%

Womenswear: up 7.6% to 11.3%

Menswear: up 7.3% to 10.3%

Lingerie: up 7.4% to 26.1%

Kidswear: up 7.1% to 4.5%.

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