The final quarter of 2009 sparked a return to growth for Marks & Spencer, according to figures released by the retailer this morning.

Like-for-like sales of food for the three months to December 26 edged up by 0.4%. Clothing and home products sales were up by 1.2%, meaning overall like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter rose by 0.8%.

M&S said the figures excluded the first day of the Christmas sale on 27 December, which would have pushed up the like-for-likes by a further 1%.

Chairman Sir Stuart Rose said the retailer had achieved its biggest-ever Christmas fortnight, with food sales on 23 December reaching a new record of more than £50m.

He conceded that continuing economic uncertainty would make trading conditions over the coming year challenging.

Sir Stuart also told BBC’s Today programme there was no date had yet been set for the arrival of new chief executive Marc Bolland, but he expected it to be early this year.