Marks & Spencer has posted better than expected fourth-quarter sales figures thanks to a strong performance from its food business.

Like-for-like food sales rose 3.4% in the 13 weeks to 2 April, the retailer said. Total food sales grew by 4.9% over the period.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said the retailer’s food market share had increased to 3.8% during the period.

The retailer launched 320 new products in the quarter and its ‘Count on Us’ and ‘Simply Fuller Longer’ health food ranges were the UK’s top healthy meals brands in January.

Total group sales were up 2.3% but rose by just 0.1% on a like-for-like basis.

“We had a good fourth quarter in a challenging trading environment,” Bolland added.

“In times like these customers are increasingly turning to M&S for value, quality and innovation. Strong products backed by great advertising meant we outperformed that market and grew share in both food and clothing.”

The performance comes after Sainsbury's last month reported like-for-like sales growth of just 1% for the fourth quarter, representing a major slowdown from its Christmas performance.

Read more
M&S confirms Paris entry (1 April 2011)
Sainsbury’s growth slows in final quarter as King remains cautious (23 March 2011)
M&S to open 'greenest store yet' next month (2 March 2011)
Hot Topic: Wade-Gery exit says more about M&S than about Tesco (12 February 2011)