A leak of key sales figures has prompted Marks & Spencer to publish its quarterly statement early, revealing a bigger than expected drop in Christmas sales.

The retailer published the statement last night, 12 hours ahead of schedule, after Sky News reported the headline figures early in the evening.
M&S said like-for-like sales fell 1.8% in the 13 weeks to 29 December, which was worse than even the most downbeat analyst forecasts. The performance of general merchandise, which consists mainly of clothing, was particularly weak, with like-for-likes down 3.8%. Sales in the food division were up marginally, by 0.3% on a like-for-like basis.
“Our food business has performed very well, with record sales over the key Christmas trading period,” said M&S CEO Marc Bolland.
However, he admitted that the performance of the general merchandise business was “not yet satisfactory”, adding that he was confident the new management team, led by former executive director of food John Dixon, would turn it around.
Bolland said the retailer’s lawyers, PR advisers and brokers advised him to put out the quarterly sales figures early.