• Food like-for-likes up 0.6%
  • Clothing and home like-for-likes up 2.3%
  • Total UK like-for-likes up 1.3%

Marks & Spencer delivered a like-for-like sales improvement at its core fashion division over Christmas.

It was Marks & Spencer’s first Christmas under the leadership of Steve Rowe as chief executive, and changes he has initiated show signs of bearing fruit.

However, he also cautioned that fourth-quarter performance would be adversely affected by Sale timing and a late Easter.

Group sales were up 5.9% in total during the third quarter to December 31.

Food sales rose 5.6% altogether and 0.6% like-for-like.

At the clothing and home division, the turnaround of which is Rowe’s top priority, total sales advanced 3.1% and 2.3% like-for-like.

The group like-for-like increase was 1.3% and total UK sales were ahead 4.5%. 

Online revenues were up 9.4%.

Rowe said: “I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business.

“In clothing and home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace.

“We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday.”

The retailer reported that of the rise in clothing and home sales, about 1.5% was a result of a shift in reporting period, meaning five additional days of the December Sale were included.

Marks & Spencer said: ”We substantially reduced sales on promotion in the period, with many fewer category promotions particularly over Black Friday.

“Stock into Sale during the quarter declined by c7% with one fewer clearance event than last year. As a result of these actions, we saw a further improvement in full price sales.”