Like-for-like clothing and home sales at Marks & Spencer grew 2.3% in the 13 weeks to 31 December, beating expectations.
Total clothing and home sales were up 3.1%. The retailer estimated that around 1.5% of this was due to a shift in the reporting period, which meant it included five additional days of the December Sale.
M&S said it “substantially reduced” the number of promotions it ran during the period, with many fewer category promotions particularly over Black Friday.
The amount of stock in its Sale was down 7% and it held one fewer clearance event, compared to last year. As a result, there was an improvement in full-price sales.
International sales were up 2.9% at constant currency, benefiting from earlier shipments of spring ranges to its franchise partners.
Group sales including food were up 5.9% on a reported basis, and 4.3% on a constant currency basis.
Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business. I would like to thank the whole team for their hard work over this busy period.
“In clothing and home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday.”
However, Rowe warned that the fourth quarter numbers would be adversely affected by the timing of the Sale this year, and a later Easter. He added: “Against the background of uncertain consumer confidence the business remains focused on delivering the strategic actions announced last year.”
M&S’s full-year guidance remains unchanged, although it qualified that with a note of caution about the ”uncertain consumer outlook”.
The retailer will report its full-year results on 24 May.