Marks & Spencer clothing arm returns to sales growth of 2.3 per cent

Like-for-like sales in its clothing and home division rose 2.3% in the 13 weeks to December 31.

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.

"I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business", commented M&S chief executive Steve Rowe.

Group sales were up 5.9% on a reported basis compared with a year ago, while global sales grew 2.9% thanks to earlier shipments of spring ranges to M&S's franchise partners.

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Marks & Spencer's strategy to focus on value and quality, rather than "reactionary and desperate" discounting, paid off in its third-quarter with the United Kingdom retailer's clothing division recording an uplift in sales for just the second time in six years. Like-for-like Clothing & Home sales were up 2.3%, with total growth of 3.1%. Fourth-quarter results will be hurt by the timing of sales and a later Easter holiday, it said.

M&S announced plans in November to close around 30 United Kingdom stores and convert 45 more into food-only shops, while also announcing a retreat from a raft of global markets.

Tesco, which has approximately 50 stores in Northern Ireland, reported a 0.7% increase in United Kingdom like-for-like sales during the six weeks leading up to January 7.

Tesco also notched up a 1.8% rise in third quarter sales, marking a year of continuous growth as its recovery under boss Dave Lewis continues. "We expect the market to be challenging and consumer confidence to remain uncertain, but we are confident our plan is the right one". However, in the combined update released today, the company reported volume growth for the eighth quarter in a row as well as its first quarterly market share growth since 2011. That in contrast with Tesco's food sales surge of 1.3%, while Sainsbury's food sales slid slightly.

  • Adam Floyd