M&S general merchandise sales fell by 5% for the 13 weeks ending December 26, as like-for-like sales fell 5.8% due to unseasonal conditions and problems with availability.
M&S autumn 15 campaign
The company called the performance “disappointing” but said continued improvement in sourcing and the decision to hold back from heavy discounting meant gross margin increased to the top end of the guidance range of 200 to 250 basis points.
Online sales for general merchandise increased by 20.9%.
Outgoing CEO Marc Bolland, who announced this morning he will be retiring in April to be replaced by head of general merchandise Steve Rowe, said: “General merchandise sales were disappointing. We continued to prioritise gross margin and held back from the heavy discounting seen across the market in the run up to Christmas.
“As a result we now expect GM gross margin to be at the top end of the guided range.”
The company blamed the warm weather which impacted sales across the clothing industry and said it had problems with availability, such as unlined, lightweight coats which launched in September and had sold out by later in the season.
It also cited “unprecedented levels of promotional activity in the market”, which started from Black Friday and intensified through December.
M&S acknowledged there is more to do to address sales in general merchandise and said the new team are focused on availability, ranging and design.