Marks & Spencer has reported a better than expected sales performance across food and general merchandise in the second quarter.

The high street retailer said that UK like-for-like sales during the three months to the end of September were level with last year.

The quarterly sales growth of the food division was 1.6% while sales in the general merchandise business dropped 1.8%.

For the first half of the year as a whole, sales were down 1.4% because of a weak first quarter.

Pre-tax profits over the same period were down 9.7% to £290m.

“We are pleased to report a better performance across the business in the second quarter,” said M&S CEO Marc Bolland. “We took steps to address the short term merchandising issues in general merchandise and as a result, we delivered an improved performance. Food outperformed the market on a like-for-like basis.”

M&S has recently completed a shake-up of senior management, moving executive director of food John Dixon to lead the general merchandise division and replacing him as head of food with retail director Steve Rowe.

M&S warned that recent trading had been “volatile” making management cautious about the outlook for the rest of the year.

“Today’s statement is better than feared so the shares may see a small nudge up,” said Investec analyst Bethany Hocking,