Marks & Spencer’s Christmas like-for-like sales edged up but total sales dipped despite its grocery arm “outperforming” the market.

The department store retailer’s UK revenue fell 0.6% to £2.8bn year-on-year in the 13 weeks to December 28, despite like-for-like sales edging up 0.2% during the period.

Steve Rowe

Steve Rowe said it was a ‘challenging trading environment in the lead up to Christmas’

Food sales rose 1.5% on a total basis to £1.7bn during the period, up 1.4% in like-for-like terms, driven by “a standout performance in the two-week Christmas period as customers responded to sharper value and more relevant innovation”. 

But this improved performance was offset by Marks & Spencer’s clothing and home arm, which posted a 3.7% slide in sales to £1.1bn, down 1.7% on a like-for-like basis.

M&S attributed the decline to “underperformance in menswear and gifting” and noted “strong initial performance in autumn ranges with signs of continuing recovery in core womenswear”.

Clothing and home online revenue rose 1.5% during the period, which the department store retailer said was below expectations as “revenue was adversely impacted by competitor discounting in December and lower furniture dispatches at the start of the quarter”.

International sales declined 2.3% during the period to £251m.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: “We delivered an improved performance in Q3 across both main businesses. 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.

“As we drive a faster pace of change, disappointing one-off issues – notably waste and supply chain in the Food business, the shape of buy-in menswear and performance in our gifting categories – held us back from delivering a stronger result. However, the changes we made earlier in the year in clothing have arrested the worst of the issues of the first six months and we are progressively building a much stronger team for the future.”

The retailer’s full-year guidance remains unchanged, with gross margin around the lower end of guidance due to business’ cost reduction programme.