13 January, 2017
Marks & Spencer (MKS.L)(M&S) soundly beat forecasts for Christmas trading with its first quarterly rise in clothing and homeware sales in almost two years, delivering a welcome boost for new boss Steve Rowe.
CEO Rowe did warn M&S sales in its fourth quarter will take a hit from the timing of its sale and Easter falling later in the year.
To win back shoppers, Rowe has already cut clothing prices and promised to pay more attention to its most loyal group of shoppers - fiftysomething women he has dubbed "Mrs M&S".
Like-for-like Clothing & Home sales were up 2.3% in the 13 weeks to 31 December (compared to a 6% slump last year) while total Clothing & Home sales were up 3.1%. The company further reported that its like-for-like clothing sales had gained 2.3 percent during the reported period. He also slashed the number of promotions run by the store.
Marks & Spencer said a reduction in discounting over the holiday period fueled the better-than-expected sales growth, along with improved availability and a more attractive range of styles. It's food arm also reportedly rose by 0.6 per cent. The news is a boost for chief executive Steve Rowe who has been trying to turn around the retailer's fortunes by closing stores and restructuring the group's management.
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In November Rowe, who replaced former boss Marc Bolland in April, announced the retailer would close 30 United Kingdom clothing and homeware shops and convert dozens more into food stores. As a result, the retailer said it saw a further improvement in full price sales. That in contrast with Tesco's food sales surge of 1.3%, while Sainsbury's food sales slid slightly.
Over the shorter seven-week Christmas period to January 7, which also includes the Black Friday promotional frenzy, like-for-like sales were up by 5pc, or 1.7pc in constant currency.
The Food arm, meanwhile, continued to grow its market share, Rowe said.
M&S said its guidance for the full year to the end of March remains unchanged, and it will publish its annual results on May 24.