Marks & Spencer’s UK like-for-like sales dropped 4.2% for the 13 weeks to March 28, a smaller drop than expected.
Total UK sales at M&S were down 0.3%, but clothing sales dropped 1% over the period. Total group sales were up 1.9%. The 4.2% like-for-like fall was less than the 7% drop that many City analysts predicted.
M&S executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose said the company had maintained its clothing market share over the full year.
He said: “In February, we introduced Portfolio and are pleased with the customer response to this new brand which we believe significantly enhances our womenswear offer.”
Rose added that the M&S kidswear offer had performed strongly in the quarter and that market share was at its highest level by both value and volume for seven years.
He said: “Our customers are responding positively to the actions we have taken, resulting in an improved sales performance this quarter in both General Merchandise and Foods.”
International sales rose 23% reflecting the ongoing integration of the operations of the Czech and Greek business partners and new store openings over the period. Online sales rose 20%.
M&S said that it expected UK retail gross margin to be around 175 basis points lower than last year, in line with previous guidance for 2008/09. Operating cost growth would be 4-5% and capital expenditure will be more than £700m.
Rose said: “While the outlook remains uncertain, we are confident that we are doing the right things for our customers.”
Full Year results and confirm our guidance for 2009/10 on 19 May 2009.