Food Sales Up At Marks & Spencer In Third Quarter

Tracy FergusonJan 15, 2017

Marks & Spencer enjoyed a busier-than-expected Christmas period, delivering its first quarterly increase in home ware and clothing sales in nearly two years.

Rounding off a more positive picture, the group's food business unveiled a 0.6 per cent rise in sales in the latest quarter including the key festive period.

It was the first time that the retailer had increased third-quarter underlying sales for the division since 2010-11 and the first quarterly rise since 2014-15.

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M&S has said a lot of the improvement is due to change in the reporting period covered compared to last Christmas.

"Second, chief executive Steve Rowe flagged the uncertain consumer outlook and began to get his excuses in early for the fourth and final quarter of the company's financial year, highlighting a possible adverse impact from the timing of discount sales and also a later Easter", Mould said.

Whether they mark a significant turnaround in the clothing and home business is still too early to say but the major programme of change announced previous year may be starting to help the performance. This time a year ago clothing sales had slumped by almost 6%.

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In addition, "against the background of uncertain consumer confidence the business remains focused on delivering the strategic actions announced previous year".

John Ibbotson, director of consultancy, Retail Vision, described the performance as a "mini-victory", but argued that M&S has "too many stores in the wrong locations and huge competition on fashion and food, both online and in-store". In the United Kingdom, we saw our eighth consecutive quarter of volume growth and delivered a third successful Christmas.

"We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday".

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Total UK sales over the 13 weeks to December 31, 2016 rose 4.5% or 1.3% on a like-for-like basis, with its website seeing growth of 9.4%.

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