M&Co is plotting a fresh store expansion drive in the UK after registering an increase in full-year earnings and sales.

The fashion retailer has unveiled plans to open up to 75 new stores during the next five years, following a 37% spike in operating profit to £6m in the year ended February 2017.

M&Co said EBITDA jumped 16% to £11.1m, driven by an increase in total sales to £165.6m and a 1.8% uplift in like-for-likes.

Gross margins also swelled from 21.9% to 23.7%.

M&Co attributed the results to its store refurbishment programme and investments in technology and “high-profile” advertising campaigns.

The chain is closing in on the 300-store mark worldwide, but is now targeting 12 to 15 new shops per year in the UK between now and 2022 following a “strong” start to its 2017/18 financial year.

M&Co shuttered eight unprofitable stores in the year to February, but opened in 14 new locations.

Further investment

Chief executive Andy McGeoch said: “The high street is still a challenging environment, with high business rates, cost inflation and international currency fluctuations denting our buying power with suppliers.

“However, we will continue to invest in refreshing the appearance of our stores, with over half now having benefited from refits. Furthermore we have and will continue to invest heavily in IT to help use new technologies to drive efficiency and enhance the customer experience.

“Our core strategy of taking prime positions in market towns continues. Our first-half results, in the current financial year, are showing further positive progress in like-for-like sales.

“We are actively seeking further expansion and are planning to open a further 60-75 new stores across the UK by 2022.”

M&Co has already opened a clutch of new stores in Essex, Yorkshire and Wales in the first half of its current financial year and will continue to target towns in which it is “currently unrepresented where we believe our format would be successful”, McGeoch added.

The business also has 25 franchise stores operating in 12 overseas markets and said its concession formats also offer “significant opportunities” for further growth.