M&S sales in surprise lift

MARKS and Spencer yesterday lifted some of the gloom surrounding the retail sector with a slim sales rise – but the company warned that times will get tougher.

The chain – which had been expected to report a sales slump – was given a boost from its food section.

Overall its UK like-for-like sales rose 0.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to 2 April.

General merchandise fell 3.9 per cent, but that was cancelled out by the 3.4 per cent rise in food sales.

Chief executive Marc Bolland, who joined M&S from Morrisons, has brought in hundreds of new food ranges to the store. He said the food category was performing well because of the “unique” ranges it was offering, but indicated that consumers were becoming increasingly hard pushed.

“It is not that we are hitting a wall or sales are falling off a cliff … the Budget has not had a big impact. However there will be an increasingly tough time over the next year,” he said.

Bolland said that special occasions like Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day had boosted sales as customers treated themselves after tightening their belts in other areas of their expenditure. Meanwhile M&S apologised after some UK customer details were stolen, including email addresses.