Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced that food sales were the star performer as they rose 3.1%, with total UK sales up 1.2% in its fourth quarter trading statement for the 13 weeks to 31 March 2012.
Group sales were up just 0.8%, with like-for-like UK sales down 0.7% and general merchandise down 2.8%
Marc Bolland, chief executive at M&S, said: “Marks & Spencer continued to make progress in a challenging market. Group sales grew by 0.8%, and UK sales grew by 1.2%.
“Our food business has again performed well, especially in healthy food, whilst the general merchandise performance was more mixed.
“Direct had another strong quarter with sales up 22.8% through a number of new initiatives delivering an improved customer shopping experience.
“Strategic international markets, including India and China, delivered double digit growth but we continue to experience macro-economic pressure and restructuring in some parts of Europe.
“We have continued to manage costs tightly, and are confident of delivering full-year profits in line with expectations.
“While the short-term trading outlook continues to be challenging, we are focused on investing in line with our plan and are making strong progress against our goal of becoming an international, multi-channel retailer.”
Food performed well in a “very competitive market and against tough comparatives”, with continued focus on innovation launching about 500 new products in the quarter.
M&S Direct delivered a strong performance with sales up 22.8%, ahead of the market.
The retailer launched a number of new initiatives aimed at improving customers’ shopping experience, including M&S Outlet on-line store which has proved popular with customers.
The pilot stores in the UK are performing well and customers have responded favourably to the improvements.
The retailer now plan to roll it out to the remainder of its estate, with no reduction in scope, for £100m less than the previous guidance of £600m.
The target completion date for the roll-out by mid-2013 remains unchanged.