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Marks & Spencer clothing sales rise 4.7% at Christmas

Clothing sales at Marks & Spencer increased 4.7% in the 13 weeks to January 1, as the retailer overcame the adverse weather conditions to report better than expected Christmas results.

Like-for-like sales of general merchandise, which includes clothing and home, rose 3.8% during the period. Overall the retailer posted UK like-for-like growth of 2.8%.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Marks & Spencer traded well through the important Christmas period despite the severe weather as customers continued to return to M&S quality.”

Snow

M&S said that the adverse weather conditions cost the retailer about 3% of lost general merchandise sales but this was counterbalanced by a 3% positive impact on general merchandise because of the inclusion of the first five days of the Sale in the reported figures.

Market share

The retailer said its total clothing market share was up 70 basis points by value to 11.8% for the 12 weeks to November 1, according to research by Kantar Worldpanel Fashion.

M&S said it delivered “better styling and choice at great quality and value” across its ranges to suit all budgets. It said customers had responded well to its interpretation of key autumn 10 trends, such as Fair Isle knitwear and accessories.

M&S said as customers continued to manage their budgets carefully, they shopped for wardrobe staples, with sales of lingerie, sleepwear and footwear performing strongly.

Online and international

Sales at M&S Direct, its online and multichannel arm, were up 25%. International sales increased 4.5%, with a good performance across most of its markets offset by difficult trading conditions in Ireland and Greece.

Challenging outlook

The retailer said it expected trading conditions to be tough as customers felt the impact of rising VAT rates and public spending cuts.

A statement said: “In addition, we are facing increased commodity prices and significantly tougher comparatives. As a result we remain cautious about the outlook but are confident that we are well positioned to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

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