Womenswear sales slide will make recovery tricky

Declining market share figures indicate that Marks & Spencer faces a tough battle to woo women back.

According to authoritative FashionTrak data, womenswear sales at general stores fell from£590 million for the 12 weeks to the beginning of June last year to£580 million for the same period this year. M&S is understood to account for 80 per cent of the general stores sales cake.

Overall, womenswear sales grew by 3 per cent in the same period to£3.6 billion from£3.5 billion last year.

Multiple retailers, such as Next and River Island, are believed to be taking market share away from the general store sector. Supermarkets also continue to make gains.

'On the clothing side, M&S hasn't grown market share for the past five quarters and in the last quarter it lost market share. I wouldn't be surprised if sales in April and May continued to decline,' said one retail analyst.

He added it would be difficult for Stuart Rose to rapidly reverse the trend: 'Rose would argue that if you're going to give him a chance, you have to wait to see the results. The trend is out of his control.'

Baird analyst Paul Smiddy said: 'Look at Matalan, where there has been a change in buying direction. It's really 12 months before the change can appear in the collections.'

This week, M&S previewed its new Limited Collection, described by creative director Yasmin Yusuf as its 'biggest launch ever'.