Marks & Spencer Suffer Slump In Clothing Sales Over Christmas

Marks & Spencer has revealed a bigger-than-expected slump in clothing sales over Christmas.

Non-food sales at the retail bellwether were down 3.8%, in the 13 weeks to 29 December, pushing overall like-for-like UK sales down 1.8%.

Marks & Spencer's sales figures are worse than expected

The group, which has drafted in the former Debenhams and Jaeger boss Belinda Earl to revitalise its womenswear, said it had been a "challenging and highly promotional" general merchandise market.

The figures, which had been due for release on Friday morning, were worse than expected, with most analysts predicting a 1.5% like-for-like decline in general merchandise sales.

Chief executive Marc Bolland admitted the group's general merchandise business was "not yet satisfactory".

But he said he was confident in the steps being taken by the new team, including tighter stock management, with a focus on full price sales.

The new team's first collection for Autumn Winter will not be in the shops until July.

The results come in contrast to other retail giants Next and John Lewis which both reported strong sales growth over the Christmas period. The results will put more pressure on Mr Bolland, who took over as chief executive in 2010.

But the group produced a better-than-expected performance in its food business, where sales were up 0.3% on a like-for-like basis.

The group said the launch of over 700 new products had helped it to achieve record sales of almost £330 million in the two key Christmas trading weeks.

It said its free next day store collection initiative helped push online sales up 10.8% in the period, with sales from mobile phones and tablet computers up 90%.

The group said it was cautious about the year ahead and it expected to see continued pressure on consumers' disposable incomes.