Jump in online and clothing sales helps to halt M&S decline
British retailer Marks & Spencer posted its best non-food sales performance for nearly four years yesterday as it started to put its online distribution problems behind it.
The firm said sales at its general merchandise arm rose by 0.7pc in the 13 weeks to March 28, its fiscal fourth quarter. The outcome was the first time in 15 quarters M&S has not posted a fall in non-food like-for-like sales, a trend that had put major pressure on CEO Marc Bolland, who joined in 2010.
It was also better than analysts' average forecast of down 1.2pc and followed a third-quarter decline of 5.8pc.
The improvement has been driven by an increase in online sales, with the company's more upmarket Autograph range performing well.
Mr Bolland has spent billions of pounds addressing decades of under-investment at M&S, overseeing a redesign of products, stores, logistics and its website. But a new clothing team he set up in 2012 has so far failed to deliver a sustained increase in sales.
However, a food business outperforming the wider grocery market and improving profit margins both in non-food and food have kept investors onside, with the group's share price rising by a third over the last six months. M&S's online sales grew by 14pc year-on-year during the period.
They had slumped over Christmas after the relaunch of the company's website and disruption at its new distribution centre at Castle Donington in England's Midlands.