Marks & Spencer has reported a flat first-quarter for clothing and home furnishings but says it is on course to improve margins for apparel.

Marks & Spencer

  • UK first-quarter like-for-likes flat
  • Food like-for-likes flat, total sales up 3.2%
  • General merchandise like-for-likes flat
  • Online sales jump 38.7%

The retailer revealed that its general merchandise like-for-like sales fell 0.4% in the 13 weeks to the end of June, while sales edged up 0.2% overall. The group branded it a “challenging and promotional quarter” for general merchandise.

However it said “ongoing sourcing initiatives” were improving gross margins.

In its fourth quarter, reported in May, M&S revealed its first rise in underlying sales of general merchandise for four years.

First-quarter like-for-likes were flat for food, while overall sales climbed 3.2%.

The retailer said it remains on track to open around 90 Simply Food stores this year and new stores are “performing well”.

Online sales jumped 38.7% in the quarter, although the group admitted it was against a “soft post-launch comparative”.

Overall UK like-for-likes were flat, while sales climbed 1.9%.

International sales rose 0.7% in the three-month period.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “We continue to make progress against our key priorities. Our food business did very well in a difficult market. In general merchandise, sales were broadly level on last year and we are on track to deliver the planned increase in gross margin.

“M& performance was very strong, with customers appreciating all the improvements to our website.”