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M&S backs formal autumn looks

Marks & Spencer has predicted that formal styles will be a hit with shoppers for autumn, after it reported a sales rise this week.

Chief executive Stuart Rose said that transitional stock was now filtering into stores as part of the retailer’s two- to three-week stock refresh. He added that formalwear, including footwear and knitwear, was already an early winner.

M&S revealed that like-for-like sales rose 2% for the 13 weeks to June 30, beating City forecasts of 1%. Underlying sales of general merchandise, which include clothing, were up 2.9%.

While sales of seasonal fashion such as shorts and T-shirts were down when compared with the long period of warm weather last year, Rose said tunic tops, Limited Collection and the “Myleene bikini”, modelled by celeb Myleene Klass, had flown off the shelves. Hosiery was also a star category, up by between 30% and 40%. Rose said he was “pretty pleased” with clothing performance, but was cautious about “how we go forward from here”.

He said the five consecutive interest rate rises were “unhelpful”, with customers noticing a big dent in disposable income. “Personally I think we’ve had enough. But I’m not an economist, I’m a shopkeeper,” he said.

M&S has still not gone on Sale, but is expected to do so in the next few weeks. “We’ve protected our stock position,” said Rose. “But it’s too early to give any margin guidance until we get into our Sale period.”

He said his team had been trying to buy closer to the season to keep stock tight.

Although he sounded a cautious note about future trading, Rose was adamant that M&S would not perform worse than its rivals. He added that he would be meeting Per Una chairman George Davies this week, after reports that Davies was planning to leave

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