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M&S clothing sales rise 2.7% in Q2

Clothing sales at Marks & Spencer jumped 2.7% in the 13 weeks to September 26, outperforming the rest of the business.

The retailer said today that clothing market share was level on the year.

Overall, Marks & Spencer delivered a better than expected second quarter performance, as UK like-for-like sales decline by 0.5%, continuing the improving trend seen over the last three quarters.

Group sales increased 2.7%, while UK total sales edged up 1.9%.

UK general merchandise, which includes clothing and home, declined 0.8% on a like-for-like basis. International revenues jumped 9.6% while the online arm reported a 30% rise in sales.

During the quarter Marks & Spencer launched womenswear casual range Indigo and a designer collaboration with Jsen Wintle in Autograph for men.

The retailer predicted that full year gross margin would be 50 to 100 basis points lower than last year, an improvement on previous guidance.

Executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose said: “Whilst there is more visibility in the marketplace and consumers appear more confident, we continue to be cautious about the outlook.

“We expect 2010 to be a tough year and we will continue to run the business accordingly.”

He also revealed that the retailer would be taking on an extra 20,000 staff - more than last year - ahead of the all-important Christmas season.

He said he was “quietly confident” over festive trading but refused to be drawn on predictions of a first return to like-for-like sales growth for the overall group since 2007.

But the executive chairman added there would be “pressure on pockets” next year with the prospect of tax rises, rising unemployment and continuing economic uncertainty.

“It is going to be tough going for the next 12-18 months. I don’t think it is going to be spend, spend, spend,” he said.

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