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Marks & Spencer clothing sales jump 7.8%

Clothing sales at Marks & Spencer increased 7.8% in the 13 weeks to October 2, but the retailer warned that trading conditions would become tougher.

UK sales of general merchandise, which includes clothing and home, jumped 8% while like-for-like sales in the same category rose 7%.

Market share gains

Marks & Spencer said it saw growth across all areas of clothing during the period and that its total clothing market share was up 70 basis points by value to 10.3% for the 12 weeks to August 15, according to data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel.

M&S said it delivered “stronger fashions” to its customers with new styles, fabrics and colours giving more choice to suit all budgets.

During the period the retailer introduced innovative new products including its ‘2 sizes bigger’ bra and ‘Miracle’ crease resistant linen.

Pricing

Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “We would like to keep opening price points close [to existing prices] for the next half of the year. We want to stay competitive.”

Return to quality

M&S said customers were returning to quality in areas such as men’s suits and knitwear. It said its latest advertising campaign had driven footfall.

Bolland said: “Customers are investing in quality and looking for quality.”

He added: “”With the uncertain environment, people are choosing quality, something that lasts. We’ve seen that in our research and in our stores. People want items that will be with them a bit longer.”

School uniforms

Marks & Spencer enjoyed a record year for schoolwear, with 8.5m items in the category sold during the period. “Its had an absolutely smashing year,” said Bolland.

Clothing and footwear

The autumn 10 ad campaign helped drive footfall into stores and helped deliver a record autumn season for women’s footwear. Bolland said boot sales were up 50%, also helped by offering a wider variety of styles. M&S said it was selling 2,000 of the military coats, as worn by presenter Lisa Snowden in its ad campaign, every week.

Online and international

Sales at M&S Direct, its online and multichannel arm climbed 49%. International sales were up 6.2%, but it said trading conditions remain difficult in Ireland and Greece.

Double dip

Bolland said he did not think a double dip would happen.”We are in line [with other retailers] we are coming out the recession and taking steps towards the future.”

Consumer sentiment

Bolland said consumer confidence is “stable” and consumers are “concerned but better prepared” for the future.

Cautious outlook

However a company statement warned about future trading conditions.

“Trading conditions ahead are likely to become more challenging,” it said. “Consumers’ disposable incomes will come under greater pressure from increased VAT rates and public spending cuts. We are facing increased commodity prices and significantly tougher comparatives in the second half. As a result we remain cautious about the outlook for the remainder of this year and next.

“However, our unrivalled value, innovation and quality will ensure that we are well positioned to meet the changing needs of our customers through the all important Christmas period and beyond.”

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