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Online sales jump by more than 22% at M&S

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Marks and Spencer today posted a 22.4% rise in online sales over the Christmas period. Together with international sales, up by 8.1% in the 13 weeks to December 31, the fast growth in its Direct [ecommerce] division helped the business to record an overall 2.4% rise in group sales compared to the same time last year, according to fourth-quarter results posted today.

Total UK sales were up by 1.8%, and while general merchandise revenues fell by 0.8%, food sales rose by 4.5%. On a like-for-like basis, excluding the effect of store openings of closures, UK sales were up by 1.8%. All figures exclude VAT.

The company said growth in the Direct business was boosted by the launch of its Christmas food online ordering service, which contributed to a 12% rise in orders, and the extension of its deadline for next day delivery. “We made it even more convenient for our customers to shop with us,” said the statement.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Our food business performed very strongly as customers enjoyed our new and traditional Christmas products. This unique offer, coupled with our great deals, gave them more choice than ever before for a special Christmas at home.

“In clothing our focus was on offering our customers real value at a time when they’re managing their budgets carefully. Our trading strategy worked well, delivering a record performance in many categories including menswear and sleepwear.”

The company said international growth had come from its India and Shanghai markets. Its new Champs-Elysées store had “a very good start”.

Elsewhere on the high street, multichannel retailer the Game Group said in a Christmas trading update that online sales at its GAME brand website were up by a modest 3.9% in the eight weeks to January 7, compared to the same time last year. That was not enough to compensate for falling sales in both its UK and Ireland, and international, stores of 17.6% and 12% respectively. Total sales fell by 14.7%, or 12.9% on a like-for-like basis.

Its chief executive Ian Shepherd said: “Our industry had an incredibly tough 2011, and so did we. We remain the market leader and have a clear strategy which will return the business to growth. We are adapting to the changing market and are well prepared for the next hardware cycle.”

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