Marks & Spencer has reported a 1.5% fall in like-for-like food sales for the 13 weeks to 29 December.

M&S CEO Sir Stuart Rose said market conditions had become more challenging in November and December, adding that he expected trading conditions to remain tough throughout 2008.

Total food sales for the period rose 5.1%, while total group sales rose 2.8%.

However, UK like-for-like sales fell 2.2%, led by general merchandise which fell 3.2%.

“We are well positioned with a strong product offer and better than ever values across our business,” added Sir Stuart. “We now have 70% of our stores in the modernised format and a strong pipeline of new space for 2008 and beyond.”

M&S' figures are in contrast to Waitrose and the Co-operative Group, which both reported strong Christmas trading yesterday.

Like-for-like sales at Waitrose rose 4.1% in the five weeks to 5 January, while the Co-op Group reported like-for-like sales growth of 3.3% for the 13 weeks to 5 January.