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Saturday 09th of January 2010
January 6, 2010    

M&S sales growth slightly below expectations

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by Kay Murchie

British retailing giant, Marks and Spencer (M&S), has today reported its first sales growth in over two years.

The 125-year-old retailer which sells clothes, food and homewares, said like-for-like sales grew 0.8% in the three months to 26 December compared with the same period a year earlier.

However, the increase was below market expectations of a 2% rise. M&S has been suffering amid the economic downturn as discount chains continue to steal market share from the company.

However, the group said that if the sales had included 27 December (the first day of its post-Christmas sale) like-for-like sales for the three months would have risen by “nearly 2%”, since it experienced bumper sales on that day.

In the meantime, like-for-like sales of food, which exclude gains from new stores opened during the three month period, grew by 0.4%, while clothing and home products comparable sales were up by 1.2%.

Following the news, shares in M&S lost 17.20 pence to 387.70p in early trading.

The update came just a day after fashion chain Next reported better than expected sales figures for the Christmas period.

Furthermore, the John Lewis Partnership, which is seen as a barometer of British retailing, said like-for-like sales were up 12.7% in the five weeks to 2 January 2010 compared with a year ago.

The figures will boost hopes that the economy is making a recovery as consumers begin to spend again.

However, both Next and John Lewis said they are cautious and about the coming year.

Sir Stuart Rose, M&S chairman, said the firm had seen a “good Christmas”, but that trading this year would be tough.

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