High street stalwart Marks & Spencer has reported a 0.7 per cent drop in like-for-like sales across its UK stores in the 13 weeks to the end of March.
Like-for-like sales of general merchandise – including clothing, footwear and home accessories – fell 2.8 per cent, but like-for-like food sales grew by one per cent, with around 500 new products launched during the quarter.
Total group sales increased by 0.8 per cent over the fourth quarter, boosted by Direct, its online arm, which saw sales leap 22.8 per cent, the company's trading statement indicates.
Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Marks & Spencer continued to make progress in a challenging market.
“Our food business has again performed well, especially in healthy food, while the general merchandise performance was more mixed.”
Men’s and children’s clothing fared strongly but stock shortages of best sellers hit the women’s wear performance, he added.
Mr Bolland said the company is confident of delivering full year profits in line with expectations.
“While the short term trading outlook continues to be challenging, we are focused on investing in line with our plan and are making strong progress against our goal of becoming an international, multi-channel retailer.”
Strategic international markets in India, China and the Gulf continued to trade strongly and the newly opened M&S flagship store in Paris performed ahead of expectations.
But international sales performance was impacted by continued macro-economic weakness in the Republic of Ireland and Greece, and the announced restructuring of the group’s Central European business, Mr Bolland added.
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