About 50,000 store staff picked up a handout of between £200 (€229) and £500 (€570) in the first such payout since 2008, with the rest of the bonus pool going to managers and head office executives.
M&S chairman Stuart Rose, announcing the windfall yesterday, reported same store sales up by a better-than-expected 5.1% in the 13 weeks to March 27 – a positive note for his final trading statement before new chief executive Marc Bolland arrives next month.
The rise marks the second quarter of growth in a row after the group posted a 0.8% hike for the previous three months, its first increase in two years. M&S has had a far better financial year after seeing profits drop by 40% in the previous 12 months.
It said it was on track for annual profits of between £620 million to £630m in the period to March 27, up from £604.4m the previous year.
M&S said “self-help” measures were beginning to pay off, with total British sales up 6.2% and online sales soaring by 48% in the quarter.
Experts said there were also some concerns over costs after M&S confirmed its expenses would increase by 4% to 5% in the new financial year to pay for store expansion plans.
This was on top of £500m to £550m in capital expenditure for IT and system revamps.
There has already been speculation that incoming boss Mr Bolland may be forced to tap shareholders for money to push through changes at the group, although Stuart Rose sought to quash the rumours, saying there were “no plans for a rights issue”.
Mr Bolland takes up the reins on May 1 and is expected to deliver his strategic vision for the group in the autumn. He joins from Morrisons supermarket, lured with a near-£15m pay package at M&S.