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Rowe hails improved ranges

Christmas cheer as M&S sees uplift in clothing

M&S labelMarks & Spencer finally stopped the rot in its clothing division with a 2.3% rise in sales over the quarter covering Christmas.

Steve Rowe, chief executive, hailed the turnaround as a result of improvements to the range and availability.

“I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business,” he said.

“In Clothing & Home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday.”

The chain saw only a slight rise in food – just 0.6% higher – and Mr Rowe warned that the timing of sales and a later Easter will impact on the fourth quarter figures.

“Against the background of uncertain consumer confidence the business remains focused on delivering the strategic actions announced last year,” he said.

Group sales were up 5.9% on a reported basis in the 13 weeks to 31 December.

Clothing & Home sales rose by 3.1% of which c.1.5% was due to the shift in reporting period, which led to the inclusion of five additional days of the December sale.  Like for like sales were up by 2.3%.

“We substantially reduced sales on promotion in the period, with many fewer category promotions particularly over Black Friday,” said Mr Rowe.

Stock into sale during the quarter declined by c.7% with one fewer clearance event than last year. 

“As a result of these actions, we saw a further improvement in full price sales.”

Food sales rose by 5.6%, with LFL sales up by 0.6%. The quarter was characterised by a slightly later build to peak, as a result of Christmas Day falling on a Sunday. 

Mr Rowe added: “We continue to grow market share, with customers appreciating the quality, innovation and newness that distinguish our food.  New Simply Food stores continue to perform well.”

International sales were up 2.9% at constant currency benefiting from earlier shipments of spring ranges to the company’s franchise partners.

“Full year guidance remains unchanged. We continue to manage the business for the uncertain consumer outlook.” said Mr Rowe.

 M&S reports its full year results on 24 May.


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