Marks & Spencer has hailed the launch of its Indigo casualwear range a success after selling 350,000 items since its debut at the start of September.

The figure is a third ahead of plan. Executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose declined to give a comparison with past range launches but said: “That’s a lot of garments.”

Singer analyst Matthew McEach-ran said Indigo’s initial success was encouraging and M&S’s clothing performance generally was benefiting from improved segmentation and in-store adjacencies.

M&S posted a general merchandise like-for-like decline of 0.8% in the second quarter - better than the 2.5% fall expected by the City.

However, KBC Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson said: “We view the performance of general merchandise as being in line with the wider UK apparel and home markets, noting a generally strong spring/summer season and similar forecast outperformance at Next and Debenhams.” He said M&S’s flat market share supported that view.

Rose remained cautious about the trading outlook. The VAT rise planned for January and continued job fears were among factors he warned could affect business.

He said: “It’s going to be a slow recovery; not spend, spend, spend.”

He played down the likelihood of a repeat of last year’s highly promotional Christmas when M&S ran ‘spectaculars’ to draw in shoppers reluctant to spend in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ collapse. “Last year was an exceptional reaction to exceptional events,” said Rose.

The retailer’s food like-for-likes were flat over the period, representing a fourth consecutive quarter of improvement. Rose was sanguine about rival Waitrose’s plans to ramp up its convenience store presence, which some observers fear could be a threat to M&S’s Simply Food chain. He said M&S is cheaper than Waitrose on many items.