Food is top performer
Marks & Spencer demonstrated that its recovery is gaining momentum this morning, with strong Christmas trading figures.

In its third-quarter update, M&S reported that UK like-for-like sales were up 2.9 per cent during the 13 weeks to December 31. Year-on-year sales of general merchandise increased by 0.8 per cent and food sales jumped 5.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Total sales rose by 4.8 per cent during the period, with general merchandise up 2.1 per cent and food up 7.9 per cent. Sales growth in clothing was more modest, with a climb of 1.9 per cent, but home reported a sales increase of 3.8 per cent.

M&S chief executive Stuart Rose said that the performance over the quarter had been encouraging. However, he added that the market is expected to remain challenging.

He said: 'We remain focused on product, service and environment. We are undertaking a substantial programme of store development and expect to have more than 30 per cent of our store portfolio in the new format by the end of 2006. We are on track against our plan, although there remains much to do.'

The group revealed that 35 per cent less stock went through to the post-Christmas clearance this year, as a result of tighter inventory control and better buying.

The board unveiled the appointment of David Michels as a non-executive director, who will take up his position on March 1. Michels has held a number of senior positions in the leisure industry, most recently as group chief executive of Hilton Group.