Market to check out Chung factor at M&S

The City will this week scrutinise an update from Marks & Spencer to assess whether it has improved its clothing sales, with a little help from TV presenter Alexa Chung.

Alexa Chung Photo: Katie Collins/PA Wire

Marks & Spencer will reveal whether efforts to boost its women’s clothing division have stemmed falling sales when it updates the market on Thursday.

The high street giant saw like-for-like sales in its general merchandise arm – including clothing – fall 5.8 per cent in the 13 weeks to December 26, as it felt the force of unusually mild weather and poor stock availability. The third quarter update came as chief executive Marc Bolland revealed he would be bowing out from the business following a dire Christmas performance, with M&S veteran Steve Rowe stepping up to the helm.

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The retailer moved to strengthen its clothing division in February when it announced a tie-up with Ms Chung, who will launch a fashion collection inspired by M&S’s extensive archives.

The 31-piece womenswear collection will be called Archive by Alexa and was due to launch in selected stores and online this month.

Share Centre analyst Graham Spooner said the group has been sharpening its focus on increasing profit margins across general merchandise – especially women’s clothing – in a bid to strengthen its financial performance. He said the food business “should continue to show steady progress” and the market will also be looking closely at online sales.

He added: “Some analysts are concerned about the potential impact of a ‘Brexit’ vote in June on the retail sector, so any comments about that from M&S will also be of interest.” The third quarter fall in like-for-like sales came as the group resisted pressure to discount early despite widespread sales launched on the high street.