Marks & Spencer shares soared this morning after the retailer reported an improvement in clothing sales.

Shares in the retailer rose 2.19% in early trading to 466p after it reported a 0.2% drop in total UK like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter to 29 March.

Like-for-like food sales climbed 0.1% during the quarter, with the late timing of Easter holding back growth.

M&S suffered an 11th consecutive quarter of falling sales in general merchandise, down 0.6% on a like-for-like basis, but the clothing arm of the division grew 0.6%.

M&S CEO Marc Bolland said he was particularly pleased with the improvement in women’s clothing sales.

“We are encouraged by womenswear, which is showing clear signs of improvement and performed ahead of clothing,” he said.

He added that the food business had continued to outperform the market with record sales around the key events in the quarter – Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

“Our food business had another great quarter, especially considering the later timing of Easter. This marks our 18th consecutive quarter of growth,” he said.

M&S said the food business was well set for the Easter season – with a third of the range being new this year.

The retailer reported 4.7% growth in international sales – with particularly strong sales in India and in flagship stores in China and the Gulf. It said Greece and Czech stores also showed good improvement.

Following the migration of the website from Amazon to a new platform, online sales grew by 12.5%. M&S said it had a new marketing campaign planned to promote the site in May.