Marks & Spencer Christmas sales dip – but it says its move towards digital is making progress

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Marks & Spencer says its Christmas trading figures shows the ongoing progress of its transformation strategy. That strategy envisages M&S, a Leading retailer in IRUK Top500 research, making a third of its revenues online while cutting its store numbers. 

Group sales came in at £3bn in its third-quarter, the 13 weeks to December 28. That’s 0.7% down on the same time last year. UK sales of £2.8bn were down by 0.6% in total, but up by 0.2% on a like-for-like basis that strips out the effect of store openings and closures. The figures also showed food sales of £1.7bn were up by 1.5% in total, and 1.4% LFL, but clothing and home sales of £1.1bn were down by 3.7% in total and 1.7% LFL. 

The amount of stock going into the sale was down by 12% as a result of better availability, fewer options and better value.

Online performance

Online revenues from clothing and homewares grew by a slower than expected 1.5% as a result of competitor discounting in December and lower dispatches of furniture at the beginning of the quarter, said M&S. Traffic and orders improved, while the retailer said it also started to bring in improvements to search and personalisation, while launching an instalment payment option.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe said: ‘We delivered an improved performance in quarter three across both main businesses. The food business continued to outperform the market and clothing and home had a strong start to the quarter, albeit this was followed by a challenging trading environment in the lead up to Christmas. As we drive a faster pace of change, disappointing one-off issues – notably waste and supply chain in the food business, the shape of buy in menswear and performance in our gifting categories – held us back from delivering a stronger result. 

“However, the changes we made earlier in the year in clothing have arrested the worst of the issues of the first six months and we are progressively building a much stronger team for the future.”

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