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Marks & Spencer and Ted Baker report online growth

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Online and food sales both grew strongly at Marks & Spencer over the Christmas quarter, but slow October trade in its general merchandise business meant like-for-like UK sales dipped slightly.

Ecommerce sales grew by 22.7% in the quarter to December 28 compared to the same time last year, the multichannel retailer said this week in a third-quarter interim management statement, and by 24.1% in the Christmas trading period, the eight weeks to December 24. Total sales were up by 1.8% in the quarter and by 3.2% in the Christmas period.

However, while total UK sales rose by 1.5% in the quarter and 2.7% over Christmas, like-for-like sales fell by 0.2% in the quarter, thanks to a 2.1% fall in like-for-like general merchandise sales. Like-for-like food sales in the quarter rose by 1.6%; December 23 was the trader’s biggest ever food sales day, totalling £64m.

Marc Bolland, chief executive, said the general merchandise business, which predominantly includes clothing, had suffered from an “exceptionally unseasonal October”.

But general merchandise sales were strong online, growing by 32% over the Christmas period. This, said the company, was driven by increased site traffic and conversion. Orders from tablets more than doubled, while those from mobile phones rose by more than 80%.

The company said the launch of its new web platform this Spring and the growth of volumes processed through the ecommerce distribution centre would both “make a meaningful difference to our service”.

Bolland said: “M& had a great quarter with sales up 23%, strongly ahead of the market. Our strategy to transform M&S into an international, multichannel retailer, will keep on improving our .com service with the launch of our new platform and our new warehouse at full capacity.”

Meanwhile, Ted Baker unveiled an 18.3% growth in retail sales in the eight weeks to January 4. The lifestyle brand said its sales had been particularly strong since Christmas, and that its ecommerce business had performed strongly, benefiting from the launch of a new UK platform which boosted its multichannel capabilities and provided local content to European customers.

Ray Kelvin CBE, founder and chief executive, said: “We remain pleased by the brand’s performance in our established territories and continue to invest in newer markets for the long term development of Ted Baker as a global lifestyle brand.”

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