British retailer Marks & Spencer said Tuesday that annual net profits soared 16 percent, as the company was boosted by higher clothing and food sales. Earnings after taxation climbed to £612 million ($986 million, 704 million euros) in the group's financial year to April 2, M&S said in a results statement. That compared with £526.3 million in the 2009/2010 year. Revenues grew 4.2 percent to £9.7 billion, aided by international sales of £1 billion, added the group which is regarded as a barometer of consumer sentiment in Britain. And pre-tax profits before exceptional items rose 12.9 percent to £714.3 million. That just beat market expectations for pre-tax profits of £712 million, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires. "Marks & Spencer had a good year with sales and profits ahead of last year," said Chief Executive Marc Bolland in the earnings release. "We traded well in a challenging environment, growing our market share in both clothing and food." M&S also revealed that it had made a good start to the current 2011/2012 year -- but expected challenging trading conditions. "We have had a good start to the new financial year but we expect trading conditions in the year ahead to be challenging due to rising pressure on consumers' disposable incomes and high commodity prices. As a result we are cautious about the outlook," it added in the statement. "While the short term economic outlook remains challenging, we are confident in the long-term growth prospects of the business. In a climate of economic uncertainty, our priority remains to deliver exceptional value and unrivalled quality for our customers."