Marks and Spencer unveiled annual profits at the top end of expectations after the improved quality, availability and fit of its clothing ranges tempted more customers into its stores.

Britain's biggest clothing retailer said yesterday that group pre-tax profits rose 11.5 per cent to £721.3 million in the year to March 29, with UK clothing sales rising 10 per cent.

Womenswear, menswear and lingerie all showed gains for the period, with casualwear ranges showing a ''particularly strong performance''.

The high street favourite reported slower sales growth in April as consumer confidence declined, leading to a fall in clothing sales.

M&S has been working to reinvent itself after enduring a three-year sales slump.

It brought in new designers, switched to cheaper suppliers and rebranded segments of its fashion lines to help reverse the decline.

But recent data has raised concerns among analysts that conditions on the high street are getting tougher, with shoppers tightening their purse strings.

Childrenswear again proved ''disappointing'' for the company. During the year M&S introduced a range of a David Beckham-branded clothes for children but these failed to rescue the overall flagging performance of childrenswear.

M&S has revised down its estimates for general high street growth which normally runs at between 3 per cent and 5 per cent a year.

Chief executive Roger Holmes said: ''We now see that being subdued to less than 3 per cent but still growth. M&S is planning to open a further 50 food-only stores during the coming year as well as launching a combined credit and loyalty card across the UK and opening a new concept Home store.

As yet the company is unable to confirm whether any of the food stores will be built in the North-East or North Yorkshire.

M&S said group capital expenditure would rise this year to £560 million, compared with £311 million in the year under review.

Expenditure is going up due to the acquisition of warehouses from contractors, the moving of the M&S head office to London's Paddington Basin and investment in the food-only operation Simply Food and the Home business.

Shareholders will get a final dividend of 6.5p a share, making a total for the year of 10.5p