A bumper Easter helped Marks & Spencer deliver a 4% increase in like-for-like food sales in Q4.
Food sales over Easter week were 14% up on last year, said M&S CEO Marc Bolland. Traditional favourites such as lamb and fish sold well and M&S shifted 600,000 packs of its new Belgian chocolate hot cross buns.
Healthy food sales were also strong. “The run rate on healthy food was excellent. Simply Fuller Longer is the number one brand for healthy food and grew 22% in the quarter. We also have the number two brand in Count on Us,” he said.
The improvement in food sales helped M&S to a 0.6% rise in total like-for-likes in the 13 weeks to 30 March, which contrasts with a 1.8% drop in the third quarter.
It was held back by the continued underperformance of its clothing division. Like-for-like sales of general merchandise, which includes homeware, fell 3.8% - though this was better than the 6% forecast by some analysts.
Analysts said the widening gap between food and general merchandise was likely to put pressure on margins. But the trading statement “does show some signs of progress,” said Investec analyst Bethany Hocking.