Marks & Spencer patches up sales at clothing arm

 
Kasmira Jefford
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M&S's clothing division has so far failed to deliver a sustained increase in sales (Source: Getty)

Marks and Spencer is expected to report an improvement in sales at its general merchandise arm as the retailer recovers from its recent ware­housing debacle and thanks to fewer clothes being left on the shelves.

Citi, joint broker to M&S, expects the high street chain to report a 0.1 per cent decline in underlying sales of general merchandise in the fourth quarter, almost bringing 14 consecutive quart­ers of falling sales to an end.
But that compares with a 5.8 per cent decline in the third quarter, when disruption at M&S’ Castle Donington online distribution warehouse badly affected online sales.

M&S’s food business – which contributes over half of group sales and about a third of profit – is expected to have outperformed many of its food rivals, with Citi analysts predicting like-for-like sales up 0.1 per cent.
Chief executive Marc Bolland has spent billions of pounds addressing decades of under-investment at M&S, overseeing the redesign of products, stores, logistics and its website. In February last year, it broke away from its technology supplier Amazon and launched its own £150m website, which has suffered a series of setbacks.
Meanwhile, its clothing division has so far failed to deliver a sustained increase in sales despite bringing in a new design team in 2012.
“After a disastrous third quarter, with the new distribution centre buckling under strong demand at peak, we look for signs of increased stability,” Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson said.

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