M&S reports a fall in non-food item sales for the ninth successive quarter

Press Release   •   Nov 05, 2013 16:03 GMT

High Street retailer Marks and Spencer has reported a fall in sales of non-food items for the ninth successive quarter.

M&S, which serves 21 million customers a week from nearly 770 British stores, said sales of non-food products - including clothes - at stores open over a year fell 1.3 per cent in the 13 weeks to September 28, its fiscal second quarter.

Heavy discounting and the cost of the star-studded womenswear overhaul helped drag underlying pre-tax profits 8.9% lower to £261.6 million during the 26 weeks to the end of September.

But while M&S warned that shoppers remain reluctant to spend, its shares rose as much as 4% as investors took heart at "early signs of improvement" in clothing.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said the 129-year-old chain is showing "continuous improvement" in clothing, adding that the new range has only been in stores for three weeks of the period.

He said: "We are pleased with the progress made, given the high level of activity and a number of key projects launching this year.

"This has led to a higher level of additional costs, which while planned for, have impacted short-term results."

M&S's new autumn/winter range was led by an advertising campaign featuring some of Britain's most high-profile female celebrities, including Tracey Emin and Dame Helen Mirren.

M&S said it remained cautious about the outlook for the remainder of the year due to continued pressure on consumers' disposable incomes, but said its overall expectations for the full year remain unchanged.

M&S's lacklustre clothing performance contrasted with a 22% hike in annual sales at budget fashion retailer Primark, which also grew profits 44% during the year to mid-September.

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