M&S Finally Stops Fall In Clothing Sales
Marks & Spencer has confirmed it avoided an eleventh-consecutive quarter of declining clothing sales amid intense turnaround efforts.
In its results for the 13 weeks to 29 March, the retailer stripped its clothing sales away from General Merchandise for the first time to highlight a 0.6% increase on a like-for-like basis during the quarter.
Total clothing sales rose 1.3%.
Chief executive Marc Bolland, who recently confirmed an expansion of its operations abroad to help boost profitability, said: "We delivered another quarter of improvement in General Merchandise.
"We are encouraged by Womenswear, which is showing clear signs of improvement and performed ahead of Clothing."
The trading statement added: "Customers are responding well to our refocus on quality and style.
"Sales of M&S Collection in Womenswear, which was re-launched last autumn, were notably up on last year.
"Our new spring/summer collection has been well received, with customers noticing the improving style credentials."
But M&S warned the performance was achieved against a backdrop of continued high levels of discounting in its General Merchandise market.
Mr Bolland continued: "Our Food business had another great quarter, especially considering the later timing of Easter.
"This marks our 18th consecutive quarter of growth. We continued to outperform the market with record sales around key events including Valentine's Day and Mother's Day."
Total group sales rose 1.9% in the quarter though on a like-for-like basis UK sales fell slightly by 0.2%.
Shares opened more than 2% higher in the wake of the resilient sales performance, despite being offset by continued pressure on margins.
M&S annual results are due to be published on May 20, with City expectations ahead of today's update pencilling in a 6% fall in profits to £623m.