Analysts hastily upgraded their profit forecasts for Marks and Spencer yesterday after the company surprised the City by recording its first positive sales figures in eight quarters.

In a trading update the retailer said that on a like-for-like basis UK retail sales were up 1.3% compared with a decrease of 5.4% last quarter. Food sales were also up 6.3%, or 2.7% on a like-for-like basis.

Analysts had expected underlying sales to fall by 3.5%. One analyst said: “None of us expected this kind of recovery. We are now expecting underlying sales to remain flat for the rest of the year but as wind gets out of positive news the punters could flood in and we could see further profit upgrades.”

M&S shares briefly touched 401p during the day before easing back to close up 13.25p at 397.5p.

However, M&S’ delight was marred by the decision of George Davies, the man behind M&S’ clothing range Per Una and Asda’s George range, to step down as a consultant for the clothing business.

His daughter, Per Una’s head of merchandising, Melanie Davies, and his long-term business partner, Per Una finance director, Andrea White, also resigned.