Marks & Spencer has revealed a long-awaited improvement in its clothing arm during the 13 weeks to 31 December, although a change in its reporting period played a significant part in the alteration.
The retailer reported a 5.9 per cent increase in sales over the Christmas period. The clothing and home arm showed a 3.1 per cent growth, with a 2.3 per cent like-for-like boost.
Sales in the iconic brand's food division were up 5.6 per cent, or 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
The company's share price went up 3.4 per cent at the open, and at pixel time was leading the FTSE risers, up 3.3 per cent.
Why it's interesting
Today marks the first time M&S has reported an increase in clothing sales for two years.
The group said the improvement in clothing & home sales was due in part to the shift in reporting period – the inclusion of five extra days in December contributed approximately 1.5 per cent of the sales increase.
Other factors that helped the clothing arm – which has lately been the most troublesome part of the business – were "substantially reduced sales on promotion in the period, with many fewer category promotions particularly over Black Friday", the firm said.
In November M&S revealed the profits had dropped by 88 per cent during the first half of the year, and unveiled plans for a turnaround, which included a focus on its food business and a number of store closures. The proposals were blasted by retail experts for not being dramatic enough – analysts warned that without "seismic change" the group risked "terminal decline".
What M&S said
"I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business. I would like to thank the whole team for their hard work over this busy period," said chief executive Steve Rowe.
"In clothing & home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday."
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