Consumers who snapped up turkeys and champagne helped to boost sales at Marks & Spencer in the run-up to Christmas, but the retailer's Irish arm continues to weigh on the group's international division.
Releasing an interim management statement yesterday, Marks & Spencer said that it posted record single day food sales of £50m (€60m), on December 23, while like-for-like sales in the UK rose 2.8pc in the 13 weeks to January 1. Like-for-like food sales were 1.8pc higher for the period.
Chief executive Marc Bolland said the business had traded well in the Christmas period despite the severe weather, but the group warned that trading conditions in the coming months will be "more challenging" as consumers' disposable incomes are squeezed by VAT rises and the impact of public spending cuts.
Marks & Spencer, which has 19 stores in Ireland that between them employ over 3,000 people, repeated that difficult trading conditions here and in Greece offset what had been a decent performance by other international markets.
Total international sales climbed 4.5pc in the period under review. M&S operates about 350 international stores and 650 outlets in the UK.
M&S estimated that the bad weather before Christmas knocked about 1pc off its food sales and 3pc off general merchandise sales. Turnover at its M&S Direct unit was up 25pc in the quarter.
Analysts broadly welcomed the numbers, saying that Mr Bolland, who joined the group last year from WM Morrison, has so far managed to energise the retailer.