Marks & Spencer’s general merchandise sales have returned to growth after 14 consecutive quarters of decline, and web sales also improved.

General merchandise sales increased by 1.3% and like-for-likes rose 0.7% during the quarter ending March 28 as Marks & Spencer’s womenswear range gained traction.

Womenswear sales have held back M&S’s performance for 14 quarters, but this quarter the retailer recorded a 1.2% increase in clothing sales as like-for-likes improved by 0.6%.

At the same time M&S’s online sales were back in growth after the retailer experienced a sharp drop in sales after the relaunch of its website. M& recorded sales growth of 13.8% during the period.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland said: “We have made strong progress over the quarter. We continued to deliver on general merchandise gross margin, and are pleased that we have achieved this whilst also improving general merchandise sales. M& has returned to growth, as planned, with further improvement in customer metrics.”

Bolland also hailed “another excellent performance” in food as sales growth increased ahead of the market.

Food sales jumped 3.7% as like-for-likes increased by 0.7% despite difficult conditions in the market caused by fierce competition and deflation.

Marks & Spencer said the improvement in general merchandise sales was driven by a continued focus on product quality and styling.

The retailer revealed its spring/summer ranges have been well received by customers and were boosted by its “iconic suede skirt”.

M&S has also promoted less and focused on full-price sales, but that was offset by more stock going into its Christmas Sale as a result of the unseasonably warm autumn and winter.