Marks & Spencer suffers drop in clothing sales

The British high-street giant Marks & Spencer has seen clothing sales fall for the seventh consecutive quarter, according to its Q4 2012/13 trading statement released today.

While food sales were up 6.3% and total sales up 2.6%, general merchandise, which is dominated by clothing, was down 2.2%.

Multi-channel sales rose by 22.9% and international sales were up 7%, giving an overall positive result for the retailer, but like for like general merchandise sales were down 3.8% in the 13 weeks to March 30. This confirmed speculation that the fashion ranges would fare badly, although it beat City predictions of a 4.5% drop.

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Marc Bolland, chief executive, said: “We are working hard on improving our performance in General Merchandise and, despite difficult trading conditions, we made progress in our operational execution.

“We delivered an excellent result in Food, with performance well ahead of the market, as customers continued to trust us for provenance and quality. We are increasingly seen as the destination shop for special occasions.

“Multi-channel sales growth accelerated and our International business also performed well during the quarter.”

Ongoing criticism of the fashion ranges on offer has been tackled by improved editing of the spring/summer product ranges, said the company, citing the "Perfectly" campaign, and operational changes have seen availability and stock management improved on last year.

Bolland’s hopes rest on the new team brought in to turn around the clothing sale, including Belinda Earl, formerly of Jaeger, as style director, and the company has been firm in its assertion that this is a process that may take a while.

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