M&S cheers Christmas food performance amid clothing gloom

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe
M&S chief executive Steve Rowe
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Marks & Spencer's food division had a "standout" performance over Christmas, helping lift what was otherwise a disappointing trading period for the business.

UK food revenue rose 1.5 per cent to £1.7bn in the three months to the end of December.

However, M&S clothes stores fared much worse, with sales in the clothing and home division falling 2.7 per cent to £1.1bn in the third quarter.

On a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of new stores and closures, UK revenue rose 0.2 per cent.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: "The food business continued to outperform the market, and clothing and home had a strong start to the quarter, albeit this was followed by a challenging trading environment in the lead-up to Christmas."

He added that "disappointing one-off issues" such as waste in the food business and the performance of its gifts range "held us back from delivering a stronger result".

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, said: "In a tough market, these figures signal a much-improved performance from the retailer and could signal the green shoots of recovery in the ongoing transformation of the business.

“Food performed particularly well, benefitting from stronger underlying household finances​,​ but consumers also responded positively to more competitive pricing. It appeared that shoppers were prepared to indulge that little bit more this Christmas on food if they spotted value for money.

“While clothing and home lagged overall growth, it still improved on previous performances. The major disappointment came in the online business that barely showed any meaningful signs of growth. Integrating a seamless digital proposition remains the key challenge for the retailer.”