Marks & Spencer sales hit by pre-Brexit jitters

Retail giant Marks & Spencer today revealed an 8.9 per cent plunge in sales at its clothing arm amid pre-Brexit vote jitters on the high street and a cut-back on promotions.

Clothing sales were worse than expected at M&S. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL

The first-quarter sales drop was far worse than expected, but M&S blamed a “weak market” as consumer confidence was hit ahead of last month’s EU referendum, as well as moves to cut promotions and shift its summer sale into July.

It added that the timing of Easter knocked about 0.8 per cent off clothing and homewares sales growth.

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The group’s food arm fared better, with like-for-like sales down by 0.9 per cent in the 13 weeks to 2 July, of which 0.5 per cent was due to Easter timing, while total comparable store sales were 4.3 per cent lower overall.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “Consumer confidence weakened in the run-up to the EU referendum. While it is too early to quantify the implications of Brexit, we are confident that our strategic priorities and the actions we are taking remain the right ones.”