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Marks & Spencer says sales jump in second quarter

LONDON, October 7, 2010 (AFP) - British retailer Marks & Spencer reported a surprisingly big jump in sales during the second quarter of its financial year, driven by clothing and food items, but warned on Thursday about the outlook. Sales on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of new floor space, rose 5.3 percent in the 13 weeks to October 2, M&S said in a trading update.

"Marks & Spencer has had a good second quarter, growing market share across all parts of the business. Customers are returning to quality," said M&S chief executive Marc Bolland.

"In food, they are responding well to our better value and innovation, and in clothing are increasingly choosing M&S's great fashions and quality that lasts."

However, the group warned that trading conditions were getting tougher, amid a looming increase in value-added taxation (VAT) on goods and services in January, and consumer sentiment also hit by government spending cuts.

"Trading conditions ahead are likely to become more challenging," M&S warned in the statement.

"Consumers' disposable incomes will come under greater pressure from increased VAT rates and public spending cuts.

"We are facing increased commodity prices and significant

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