Marks & Spencer has started rolling out its general merchandise allocation system, which it hopes will improve stock availability by 9% by 2015/16.

The system uses different types of data to predict demand, allowing stores to more accurately forecast how much stock is needed and reducing the number of mark-downs.

The system will help M&S avoid the problems it experienced a couple of years ago, when it ran out of some best-selling womenswear lines during the fourth quarter.

A similar demand forecasting system has been used in Mark’s & Spencer’s food division since April 2012 and is credited with helping to achieve the food category’s strong performance.

M&S head of IT Darrell Stein said food has enjoyed 17 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth. He added: “It has been acknowledged the systems have played a role in that.”

M&S rolled out the general merchandise system to two departments around six weeks ago, and will roll it out to other departments throughout 2014.

Stein said: “It will use data from what was sold this time last year and will predict what each store needs based on that. It allows us to have less stock in our system, it makes the amount we order more accurate and it helps to manage mark downs better.”

M&S will also roll out a new merchandise planning system in 2014.