Marks & Spencer has seen like-for-likes within its general merchandise decline yet again, with the retailer reporting a 1.5% drop for the 26 weeks to September 28.
General merchandise including new stores edged up marginally at 0.4%, but it was the ninth consecutive quarter that its like-for-likes fell.
Total sales in the UK grew 3.1% across the whole business, although much of this came from M&S’ food arm, which grew 5.3%. International also climbed up 8%, driving the total overall revenues to 3.6% for the period to £4.9bn.
However underlying profit before tax fell 9% from £287.3m to £261.6m in 2013, while net debt rose from £2.63bn to £2.79bn. Earnings per share also fell from 14.1p to 13.5p, although the interim dividend remained at 6.2p.
M&S chief executive Marc Bolland praised growth on the food, international and online divisions, but noted that his key priority had been the relaunch of womenswear, which was first unveiled in May.
He said: “Although only in store for three weeks of the half year, our autumn 13 collection has been well received by customers, and we have seen some early signs of improvement.
“At the same time we continued to invest in the long term transformation of the business. We are pleased with the progress made, given the high level of activity and a number of key projects launching this year. This has led to a higher level of additional costs, which while planned for, have impacted short-term results. “
The business issued a note of warning around the “continued pressure on disposable incomes” and said it was “cautious about the outlook for the remainder of the year”, despite being “well set up for the key Christmas trading period”.