M&S clothing sales return to growth after Black Friday climbdown

The M&S Christmas ad featured Mrs Claus
The M&S Christmas ad featured Mrs Claus

Marks & Spencer has recorded growth in its clothing business for the first time in two years as it cut down on discounting and pulled back from Black Friday.

The retailer’s clothing and home sales increased 2.3% on a like-for-like basis for the 13 weeks ending 31 December, while like-for-like food sales climbed 0.6%. 

As a result, like-for-like sales for the total business increased by 1.3%.

The improved performance in clothing will come as a welcome boost to chief executive Steve Rowe, who is in the middle of a turnaround after taking over from Marc Bolland.

Clothing has been M&S' Achilles heel over recent years after recording significant declines.

Rowe said: "In clothing and home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace. We also continued to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday."

"Our food business continues to grow market share with customers recognising our product as special and different. Our Simply Food store pipeline remains strong."

Despite the strong third quarter performance Rowe has already warned that the retailer's fourth quarter results will be "adversely affected by sale timing and a later Easter".

He added: "Against the background of uncertain consumer confidence the business remains focused on delivering the strategic actions announced last year."

M&S reduced the amount of clothing and home stock that went on sale by 7% by having one less clearance event than the year ago period.

This helped deliver a further improvement in full sale prices.

Food sales rose were helped by a later build to peak trading as a result of Christmas Day falling on a Sunday. 

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