Marks & Spencer has revealed a 5.1% increase in fourth quarter like-for-like sales, well above expectations, driven by a strong performance from general merchandise.

In the 13 weeks to 27 March, non-food sales were up 9.1% like for like – 2.9% of which was accounted for by the timing of the Christmas Sale – while food was up 1.8%.

Total group sales were up 4.8%, while total UK sales were up 6.2%, although this figure too was inflated by the timing of the Sale which added 1.3%.

Direct sales were up 48% but international sales were down 5.9% due to trading conditions in Ireland and Greece and currency fluctuations.

Marks & Spencer said clothing market share was up to 11.9%, with formalwear and knitwear especially strong. Home performance was better too, up 13.3% like for like.

Profits are expected to come in between £620 and £630m,and staff are to share a bonus pool of £80m due to the better than expected performance.

“These are strong quarterly results by any measure,” said executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose. “The contining improvement in our performance is the result of the actions we have taken to invest in our stores, service, product and values.”