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Marks & Spencer reports best general merchandise performance in four years

Marks & Spencer has reported an improvement in its general merchandise and clothing performance as like-for-like sales at the division grew for the first time in nearly four years.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Marks & Spencer reports best general merchandise performance in four years

Marks & Spencer has reported an improvement in its general merchandise and clothing performance as like-for-like sales at the division grew for the first time in nearly four years.

In a fourth quarter trading statement, the retailer said that general merchandise total sales rose by 1.3% while like-for-like sales edged up 0.7%.

Marks & Spencer said the performance had been driven by a continued focus on product quality and styling and its new collections being well-received by customers and the press. In addition, there had been an increased focus on full price sales but this had been partly off-set by more stock going into the Christmas sale due to last year’s warm Autumn.

Meanwhile, total food sales rose by 3.7% with like-for-like sales growing by 0.7% despite a “difficult, deflationary” quarter for the food market. The retailer enjoyed record Valentine’s sales as customers visited the stores for special occasion food.

The results meant that Marks & Spencer’s group sales rose by 1.9%. Total UK sales increased by 2.7%.

Marc Bolland, Marks & Spencer chief executive, said: "We have made strong progress over the quarter. In food we delivered another excellent performance, with sales growth ahead of the market. We continued to deliver on general merchandise gross margin, and are pleased that we have achieved this whilst also improving general merchandise sales. M&S.com has returned to growth, as planned, with further improvement in customer metrics."

International sales dropped by 3.8% which Marks & Spencer attributed to macro-economic issues particularly in its Russia, Ukraine and Turkey franchise partnership. However, its key priority markets such as India continued to perform well.

Bolland added: “Against the backdrop of recovering consumer confidence but continuing low inflation, our strategy remains to become an international multi-channel retailer with focus on general merchandise gross margin and sales, cash flow and continuing growth in food sales.”

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