M&S Christmas turnover up 8%

Strong sales of women's clothing and homeware products were behind an upbeat Christmas trading statement from Marks & Spencer yesterday, writes Nigel Cope. Group sales in the 17 weeks to 25 January were 8.1 per cent ahead of the same period last year with clothing 9.4 per cent ahead and homewares showing a near-28 per cent advance. Food sales were 4.6 per cent ahead.

The figures were well ahead of the industry average though the City expressed some disappointment as some analysts had been hoping for a 9-10 per cent sales increase.

In the five weeks to 4 January group sales were 6.8 per cent higher with homewares again the star performer. Sales in this division were boosted by better conditions in the housing market and sales through the M&S catalogue.

In clothing M&S confirmed a trend reported by other retailers, saying Christmas trading peaked late. Women's outerware sales were strong and higher-priced men's tailoring also showed good growth. Children's clothing was described as "a struggle".

The American operation experienced a difficult Christmas in clothing. Brooks Brothers reported a 9.6 per cent sales increase. But sales were only 1.5 per cent up at Kings stores and fell by more than 3 per cent in Canada.