Marks & Spencer reverses fall in general merchandise sales
British retailer Marks & Spencer posted its best non-food sales performance for nearly four years today as it started to put its online distribution problems behind it.
The firm said sales of general merchandise, spanning clothing, footwear and homewares, at stores open over a year rose 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.
It was also better than analysts' average forecast of down 1.2pc and followed a third-quarter decline of 5.8pc, which reflected unseasonal weather in October and November and disruption at its e-commerce distribution centre in December.
Marc Bolland, CEO since 2010, 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 and recently hitting a seven-year high.
"We have made strong progress over the quarter," said Bolland.