MARKS & SPENCER chief executive Marc Bolland yesterday denied that the retailer had sparked this Christmas’s frenzied discounting as the chain’s clothing sales fell for a 10th consecutive quarter.
The high street bellwether said like-for-like general merchandise sales, which include homeware and clothing, dropped by 2.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to 28 December.
This was below expectations of a decline of up to 1.5 per cent.
Prior to the results, Marks & Spencer was hit by a string of analyst downgrades due to its visibly heavy discounting, with offers such as 30 per cent off clothing the weekend before Christmas.
But Bolland defended the level of discounting, insisting that the group only had promotions on selected lines and blamed other retailers for starting the price war on the high street.
“We were less promotional in the market and we were not the first in, we were one of the last in….we are not the one that steered off the path there,” Bolland said.
He blamed the performance on an exceptionally unseasonal October and highlighted “early signs of improvement” in its womenswear business, with small market share growth in this area for the first time in three years.
M&S’s food business, which represents over half of the company’s sales, performed better, with sales rising 1.6 per cent on an underlying basis in the quarter. However, this represented a slowdown from growth of 3.2 per cent in the previous quarter.