Marks & Spencer (M&S) has reported strong food sales in a “challenging environment”, with total UK sales up 3.9%, and like-for-like up 2.1%, for the 26 weeks to 1 October.
Group sales ex VAT were up 2.4% at £4.7bn however, general merchandise fell -0.8% in total UK sales and -1.3% in like-for-like UK sales ex VAT, with profit before tax down to £320.5m (last year £348.6m).
M&S have continued to build on the “heritage of quality and innovation”, focusing on three core values of “freshness, speciality and convenience”.
It also launched 900 new lines to give customers greater choice.
In a competitive market, M&S also worked on highlighting “great value” on core products and “delivering bigger, more impactful promotions” to boost sales.
The Dine In promotion continues to grow in popularity despite increased competition.
M&S has also launched a new ‘Take Away’ deal offering a meal for two from Indian and Chinese ranges for £10.
Marc Bolland, chief executive, said:
“Marks & Spencer performed well in the first half.
“Sales were ahead of last year despite tough comparatives and a challenging economic environment.
“Our food business in particular performed strongly, we maintained our share of the clothing and food markets.
“In an increasingly promotional environment, we managed costs tightly and took a decision to invest in giving our customers better value, choosing not to pass on the full extent of the increases in commodity prices.
“Against a challenging consumer backdrop, we took decisive action to manage the business through the short term, while continuing our focus on investing in creating a stronger platform for future growth.
“We have a very exciting Christmas product offer for our customers with more innovation and choice than ever before.
“The second half of the year has started in line with our expectations.
“We will continue to manage the business for a challenging environment with particular focus on offering great value to our customers and tight control of costs and stock.
“We remain cautious about the outlook but are well set up for the all important Christmas period.”