Monday 25 September 2017

M&S looks to autumn as clothing sales fall

Marks and Spencer's new autumn/winter collection
Marks and Spencer's new autumn/winter collection
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

BRITAIN'S biggest department store chain, Marks & Spencer, has yet to convince investors that it can revitalise its appeal to shoppers after it reported the eighth straight quarter of falling clothing sales.

As it held its annual general meeting in Wembley Stadium, London, yesterday, M&S said sales of clothing in outlets open at least a year slipped 1.6pc in the 13 weeks to June 29. Its shares also fell.

But the pace of the decline was also the slowest rate in the last eight quarters.

Analysts say M&S is now placing its bets on its autumn/winter range of clothing, which will start to arrive in its stores on July 25. A full launch of the range will take place in September. Previews of the range have been well received by the fashion industry.

"There is pressure on the forthcoming autumn/winter range to make progress for M&S," said Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital. The first-quarter performance in general merchandise "remains a disappointing, albeit in-line, figure to our minds with M&S still losing share," he added.

M&S said that on a constant currency basis, group sales rose 3.3pc in the period, while total like-for-like UK sales edged just 0.3pc higher. Like-for-like food sales in the UK rose 1.8pc.

International sales, which include operations in Ireland, were 8.7pc higher on a constant currency basis and up 11.6pc on a reported basis.

The retailer said that its performance in key markets including India, China and the Middle East was good, and that while macro-economic issues in some parts of Europe were still impacting sales, its performance in the region had "started to stabilise in some areas".

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