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Marks & Spencer sees Christmas sales fall, but cheers "steady" trading

Press Association
10 January 2019

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% over the 13 weeks to December 29 while comparable food sales fell -2.1%.

Total clothing and home sales fell by -4.8% 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.”

However analyst Fiona Cincotta at expressed frustration at the announcement.

"Management has described this sales result as steady, but about the only thing steady about it is the continued blood-letting.

"Clothing sales have fallen by more than expected in what was admittedly an especially tough Christmas for high street retailers. Even so, it would be nice to see some scintilla of evidence that M&S's clothing style, range and price overhaul is enticing customers. So far we've seen zip.

"The fall in food sales, while not as terrible as some were fearing, is still a deep one. Certainly deep enough to sustain doubts about the potency of M&S's lower-price strategy."

"On the basis of this update, more food store closures can't be ruled out," she added.

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