Marks & Spencer is braced for a drop in food sales of around 7% for the last quarter, according to press reports.

Reports suggest the retail giant is set to announce a dip in overall sales of between 5.5% and 9.5% for the three-month period, with food sales expected to show a decline of around 7% compared to the equivalent period last year.

If those indications are accurate, the news would represent the group’s worst Christmas trading figures since Sir Stuart Rose took the helm in 2004.

Analysts have recently reduced their profits forecasts for the group, with earnings set to dip by as much as half from the £1bn profit notched up over the same period last year.

The news is expected to be less grim at rival clothes retailers such as Debenhams and Next, while supermarket giants including Asda and Waitrose are tipped to unveil strong quarters in the coming weeks.

Waitrose achieved its best day of business in history on 23 December, with sales in the week to 27 December up by more than 40% on the previous year to £111.3m.