Fourth-quarter figures make more gloomy reading for chief executive Stuart Rose
Marks & Spencer revealed further poor trading figures this morning, announcing its sixth consecutive quarter of falling sales.

Like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to April 2 fell 4.9 per cent, with overall sales dropping 2.3 per cent, despite the beneficial influence of both Easter and an earlier than usual mid-season Sale.

The performance would have been worse had it not been for the company's food sales at its Simply Food and out-of-town stores. Like-for-like clothing and home sales fell 6.7 per cent, while like-for-like food sales fell only 3 per cent, with overall food sales up 1.2 per cent.

M&S said pre-tax profits for the year to April 2 will be between£610 million and£625 million, in line with its January guidance. The retailer added that customer traffic and clothing volumes were both up over the full year.

'The trading environment remains difficult,' chief executive Stuart Rose said this morning. 'The company is going through substantial change and we believe we are making progress tackling the underlying issues we face.'

Rose also outlined the control of stock as a key priority, adding that forward commitments are down 30 per cent compared with last year. Operating costs will increase by less than 1 per cent, with an 8 per cent rise in business rates and costs of new selling space offset by cost savings within the business.