Sales rise despite slow start
Marks & Spencer unveiled a strong performance in the third quarter when, despite a slower run-up to Christmas, UK like-for-like sales rose 5.6 per cent.

Like-for-likes in general merchandise increased 7.1 per cent and food climbed 3.6 per cent, in the 13 weeks to December 30. Total UK sales advanced 9.2 per cent, with general merchandise up 9 per cent and food up 9.5 per cent.

Online sales soared 70 per cent as more than 9 million customers visited the web site during the third quarter. International sales were also up 18 per cent.

Chief executive Stuart Rose said: 'M&S had a good Christmas. In the fourth quarter, we come up against significantly tough comparatives, whilst facing a more challenging retail environment.

'This quarter will be impacted by the next phase of our store modernisation programme, which starts earlier than last year. We plan to have more than 70 per cent of our store space in the new format by Christmas 2007.

'We have now delivered growth on growth in all areas of our business, thus completing the first track of our recovery plan. We remain on track to further drive and broaden our business.'

The retailer anticipates paying a bonus to all its staff and a further 12,000 employees will also benefit from a company share save scheme worth around£56 million.