Marks & Spencer has hailed Christmas trading a success after posting 0.8% like-for-like sales growth over the festive period but warned that prospects remain uncertain.
The retailer notched up a 1.2% comparable sales rise in general merchandise and food sales advanced 0.4% in the 13 weeks to December 26.
The food division delivered its “biggest ever Christmas fortnight” and record one-day sales of £50m on December 23 while sales of clothing such as knitwear, sleepwear and footwear were “particularly strong”.
Total sales rose 2.3% in the period. General merchandise was up 3.2% - up 4% in clothing but down 0.7% in home – and advanced 1.3% in food.
Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose said: “We had a good Christmas, continuing the improvements seen throughout 2009.”
But he cautioned: “We expect trading conditions over the coming year to remain challenging as a result of continuing economic uncertainty. We believe, however, that customers will continue to seek out real value and quality, for which we are justly famous.”
Rose said that full price trading had been maintained as planned and stock levels well managed, meaning that less stock went into the Sale than was the case last year. M&S expects to clear Sale items by the end of this week. M&S’s clothing market share rose by 20 basis points during the period.
The retailer reported a 32% rise in online sales and international turnover was ahead by 6%.
Ambrian analyst Philip Dorgan said: “This is an okay statement. Two year like-for-like sales are still down and, stripping out online, the non-food improvement would look less impressive. Food sales are disappointing, given the scale of margin investment.
“However, M&S will deliver a much stronger pre-tax profit performance for 2009/10 than was expected a year ago and we believe it has a significant sales and margin recovery opportunity.”