Retail: M&S hails ‘clear signs of improvement’ as clothing sales edge higher

Marks & Spencer today reported better than expected sales figures.

Marks & Spencer today reported better than expected sales figures. - Credit: PA

Marks & Spencer delivered better-than-expected sales figures today amid signs of a revival for its struggling womenswear business.

The retailer said clothing sales rose 0.6% on an underlying basis in the 13 weeks to March 29, driven by “clear signs of improvement” in womenswear following last autumn’s relaunch of its M&S Collection.

Marks said in a trading update: “Customers are responding well to our refocus on quality and style.”

However, across the general merchandise business, which includes homewares as well as clothing, like-for-like sales were 0.6% lower in the quarter.

It means the company has suffered three years of declines in the division, although today’s figure was better than the 1% fall expected in the City.


You may also want to watch:


The company, which has hired new senior personnel and launched a celebrity marketing push in a bid to revive its fashion business, said the improved performance came in the face of high levels of discounting.

It added: “Despite some improvement in consumer confidence, we remain cautious about the outlook. Our focus is on continuing to transform Marks & Spencer into an international, multi-channel retailer.”

Most Read

Marks said its food department had a “great quarter”, with the later timing of Easter failing to prevent an 18th quarter in a row of like-for-like growth.

However, with the resilient sales performance having been offset by continued pressure on margins, the City expects annual results from M&S, due to be published on May 20, to show a 6% fall in profits to £623m.

It will mean the 130-year-old company being overtaken for the first time by rival Next, a relative upstart at 32 years old, which last month announced profits of £695m.

Freddie George, a retail analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, kept his “sell” rating on the stock today and warned the profits figure could go as low as £610m.

He added: “We continue to believe it will take a number of seasons before the existing team is able to manifest a marked improvement in performance in womenswear.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus