M&S bullish despite Xmas sales blow

M&S also confirmed it remained on track for its full-year profit guidance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
M&S also confirmed it remained on track for its full-year profit guidance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Marks & Spencer has insisted it is seeing “encouraging early signs” despite further falls in clothing and food sales over its Christmas quarter.

The retail bellwether said like-for-like clothing and home sales dropped 2.4 per cent over the 13 weeks to 29 December while comparable food sales fell 2.1 per cent.

Total clothing and home sales fell by 4.8 per cent as it was knocked by a raft of store closures under its overhaul.

The group said while unusually warm weather and falling consumer confidence made for a “very challenging” November, overall trading in its third quarter was “steady with some early encouraging signs”.

M&S also confirmed it remained on track for its full-year profit guidance.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “Against the backdrop of well-publicised difficult market conditions, our performance remained steady across the period.

“Our food business traded successfully over Christmas as customers responded to improved value. Our transformation programme remains on track.”

The group said it did not take part in Black Friday discounts and held off from discounting ahead of Christmas, despite heavy promotional activity across the high street.

Alasdair Ronald, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin Scotland, said: “The latest trading update from Marks & Spencer confirmed that trading is very difficult for the company.

“Even the food business – where there had been strong like-for-like sales growth since 2011 – saw a sales decline of 2.1 per cent compared to last year.

“However, it will come as little surprise that the clothing and home division was also disappointing and, despite a bigger push online, it continues to lose share in the highly competitive UK apparel market.

“As is the case for many UK retailers, the depreciation of sterling has led to higher costs and, although this will be partly offset by better buying and lower markdowns, earnings per share are likely to remain under pressure.”

Shares were up slightly in early morning trading.