UK clothing and home sales at Marks & Spencer dipped by 3.7% year on year to £1bn in the 13 weeks to 28 December, as a result of an “underperformance” in menswear and gifting.
Sales for clothing and home were down 1.7% on a like-for-like basis.
Clothing and home UK online revenue was up 1.5%, which was adversely impacted by competitor discounting in December.
Total group turnover was down 0.7% year on year to £3bn, while total sales in the UK dropped by 0.6% year on year to £2.8bn but were up 0.2% on a like-for-like basis.
Meanwhile, food sales increased by 1.5% to £1.7m.
Total international sales fell by 2.3% to £251m. It said this was a reflection of investment in price and franchise partner-driven stock efficiencies.
“We delivered an improved performance in Q3 across both main businesses,” said Steve Rowe, M&S CEO.
“The food business continued to outperform the market, and clothing and home had a strong start to the quarter, albeit this was followed by a challenging trading environment in the lead-up to Christmas.
“As we drive a faster pace of change, disappointing one-off issues – notably waste and supply chain in the food business, the shape of buy in menswear and performance in our gifting categories – held us back from delivering a stronger result.
“However, the changes we made earlier in the year in clothing have arrested the worst of the issues of the first six months and we are progressively building a much stronger team for the future.”
Commenting on the latest trading update, Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, said: “In a tough market, these figures signal a much-improved performance from the retailer and could signal the green shoots of recovery in the ongoing transformation of the business.
“Food performed particularly well, benefiting from stronger underlying household finances, but consumers also responded positively to more competitive pricing. It appeared that shoppers were prepared to indulge that little bit more this Christmas on food if they spotted value for money.
“While clothing and home lagged overall growth, it still improved on previous performances. The major disappointment came in the online business, which barely showed any meaningful signs of growth. Integrating a seamless digital proposition remains the key challenge for the retailer.”
M&S will report its full-year results on 20 May 2020.