It is important, amid the UK’s general economic malaise and the very real consequences of the Conservatives’ failures on this front for households and businesses, not to lose sight of the positives.

Retailer Marks and Spencer was to the fore on the good news list last week, unveiling a 56.2% jump in first-half profits before tax to £325.6 million. This was achieved on the back of a 10.8% advance in sales to £6.16 billion, comparing the six months to September 30 with the first half of the prior financial year.

M&S has faced some major challenges over recent years. However, it remains such a crucial part of the UK retail landscape, and a key high street anchor for so many towns and cities, and it was therefore unsurprising to see its progress greeted with some gusto in various quarters.

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Russ Mould, investment director at stockbroker AJ Bell, declared in the wake of M&S publishing its results on Wednesday: “Marks and Spencer has been on a roll over the past year as its food and clothing resonate with the public. It’s no wonder the company’s share price has been soaring, up 160% since October 2022.”

Mr Mould flagged M&S’s progress on the clothing front, as well as its success in its food business.

Food has tended to be a more consistently straightforward area for M&S over recent years and decades.

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Mr Mould said: “The decision to cut prices on certain food lines has proved wise, making its products appeal to a broader customer type. Clothing has long been the problem child in the business and it now seems to have found the right formula and not have half its shop floor collecting dust with unfashionable items or 75 versions of the same product.

“You only have to walk into one of its stores to see there is a buzz among customers. People are finding plenty of things they want to buy and the tills are ringing.”

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, declared: “The turnaround plan first initiated by previous CEO Steve Rowe has gone from strength to strength [under] new CEO Stuart Machin.”

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Mr Hewson added: “Over a year ago, the Marks and Spencer share price was at two-year lows and not far off its pandemic lows of 2020 as pessimism abounded about the UK economy.

“Since then, the share price has more than doubled and, while it has not recovered back to its 2022 peaks, it's not far off, returning to the FTSE-100 in the process.”

Mr Machin, in the results statement, highlighted the retailer’s “relentless focus on trusted value, giving…customers exceptional quality product at the best possible price”.

The dismal economic backdrop facing UK consumers, including the country’s inflation woes, means that value is more important than ever to so many households.

Mr Mould said: “Marks and Spencer positions itself as a retailer that provides good value for money. Clothing products and food items are good quality and that status tends to be remembered by shoppers. They want their cash to go a long way, and Marks and Spencer has reclaimed its place as one of the first places shoppers go when wanting more products.”

At all times, and especially amid grim conditions such as those prevailing in the UK, looking after the needs of customers is surely crucial to the success of consumer-facing businesses.

In this vein, my column in The Herald on Wednesday highlighted Nationwide’s current commitment, the subject of an advertising campaign portraying Dominic West as a cost-cutting boss at "A.N.Y. Bank”, to keeping branches open.

This column observed that Nationwide had provided some cheer amid the demoralising wave of bank branch closures seen in the UK for many years now.

Returning to the grim backdrop that UK households are facing, we should not forget the continuing damage being done by Brexit and the fact it was the ruling Conservatives, so hapless on the economy across the board, who delivered this hard exit from the European Union.

It was good to see Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who sometimes gives the impression of wanting to avoid discussing the damage being done by Brexit if he possibly can, highlight last week the reduction in the openness of the UK economy arising from the country’s departure from the EU.

In a speech to the Central Bank of Ireland’s financial system conference in Dublin, Mr Bailey said: “As a public official I take no position on Brexit per se. That was a decision for the people of the UK.

“It has led to a reduction in the openness of the UK economy, though over time new trading relationships around the world should, and I expect will, be established. Of course, that requires a commitment to openness and free trade.”

Mr Bailey’s comments about Brexit having led to a “reduction in the openness of the UK economy” were perhaps about as low-key as they could have been. However, especially given he has appeared at pains in the recent past to play down the part of EU exit in fuelling UK inflation, it was very much a case of something being better than nothing.