M&S misses sales forecast

City A.M. Reporter
Marks & Spencer missed forecasts for underlying fourth quarter sales, with growth in food sales failing to offset a weaker outcome in general merchandise.

The UK's biggest clothing retailer, which also sells homewares and upmarket foods, said on Tuesday it would, however, meet expectations for 2011/12 profit.

M&S said sales at stores open over a year fell 0.7 percent in the 13 weeks to 31 March, its fiscal fourth quarter.

That compared with analyst forecasts of a rise of 0.4-1.6 per cent, with a consensus of 0.8 per cent, according to a company poll of 10, and a third quarter rise of 0.5 percent excluding VAT sales tax.

The fourth quarter outcome included a 2.8 per cent fall in general merchandise like-for-like sales and a one per cent rise in food sales, against consensus forecasts of increases of 0.2 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.

Total group sales rose 0.8 per cent.

Many UK retailers are still struggling as consumers grapple with inflation, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and worry about job security and a stagnant housing market.

M&S has, however, performed better than most as its older and more affluent customers have been less impacted by the economic downturn.