Marks&Spencer food hall

Food sales lifted M&S’ first quarter, but clothing sales continued to fall

Marks & Spencer has reported a 0.3% increase in first quarter like-for-like UK sales, driven by strong food sales growth.

The retailer said food sales were up 1.8% for the quarter to 29 June, while general merchandise sales fell 1.6%.

Growth in food was achieved despite a lack of major events during the quarter, such as last year’s Diamond Jubilee. But the general merchandise arm of the business, which comprises clothing and homeware, was lapping a particularly poor quarter last year, when like-for-like sales plummeted 6.8%.

International sales grew 8.7% during the quarter aided by some improvement in M&S’ troubled Greek and Czech markets as well as double-digit growth in India, China and the Middle East.

Sales on M& rocketed 29.9% as the popularity of click-and-collect grew and sales on mobile and tablet were up 160%.

M&S CEO Marc Bolland said the food arm of the business was boosted by high soft fruit sales, strong meat sales – helped by a three for £10 deal – and strong sales of healthy ready meals. M&S has sold 725,000 meals from the new Delicious & Nutritious healthy food range.

“We have seen more people trusting us and our provenance – as shown by the uplift in meat sales,” said Bolland, talking about the impact of the horsemeat scandal.

He said consumer confidence has held steady in recent months, although older customers are more positive.

M&S is launching the first products from its much-anticipated autumn/winter clothing collection at the end of July.

It is the first collection from the new management team in clothing and M&S is banking on its success to stop declining sales. This was the eighth consecutive quarter of falling clothing sales.