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M&S clothing sales improve despite dip in like-for-likes

Marks & Spencer delivered a slight improvement in general merchandise sales as total group sales rose 3.3% in its first quarter.

In the 13 weeks to June 29, total UK sales rose 2.7% as general merchandise sales increased by 0.5%. However, on a like-for-like basis general merchandise revenues slipped 1.6%.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said the general merchandise business showed “some improvement” during the quarter, despite difficult trading conditions and further intensification of promotional activity in the market. In its statement the retailer said tight management had resulted in a clean stock position at the end of the quarter.

However, Bolland explained that M&S’s market share in general merchandise was slightly down for the quarter due to the lack of summery weather early on in the period. “We have an extremely high share of casual tops and bottoms and if the summer does not kick off then we will be slightly more hit there,” he said.

Bolland added: “I’m glad for the whole of the UK that it’s warm and that the sun is shining. It could have come in April or May but we still have some stock which is well suited to this weather.” Bolland said June had been a “highly promotional market”, which meant the retailer had held more promotions than it would have done if the wider market had been less promotional.

Knitwear and dresses sold well during the period with Bolland also highlighting its collaborations as strong performers. Its Rosie Huntington-Whiteley lingerie range sold 95,000 units, while the Richard James suiting line delivered a 40% rise year on year.

International sales surged 8.7% during the quarter, with M&S flagging up its key markets of India, China and the Middle East.

Online sales rose 29.9%, benefiting from a 160% rise in sales from mobiles and tablets. The retailer is set to launch a new web platform next spring.

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