Marks & Spencer growth held back by underperforming clothing business

High street retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has reported good performance in the first quarter of the year, despite continued weakness from its clothing division.

In the 13 weeks to 29 June 2013, group sales rose by 3.3 per cent, while total UK sales increased by 2.7 per cent. Notably, the retailer’s online sales grew by 29.9 per cent.

But while food continued to be the main driver of growth (like-for-like UK sales up 1.8 per cent), clothing sales fell by 1.6 per cent – the eighth quarter of contraction.

M&S’s Autumn/Winter range is due to arrive in stores this month, and it’s hoped that it can revive the fortunes of the clothing business further. But Clive Black, analyst at Shore Capital, does not thing the new range will be a “panacea for M&S”. He will be looking for “an improvement in store execution and sales performance” and a better Spring/Summer campaign in order to say with some certainty whether or not the group’s core operations is on a “demonstrably better footing.