Marks & Spencer clothing sales slump over Christmas


Marks & Spencer last night delivered worse than expected clothing sales over the crucial festive period to confirm its status as one of the high street's weakest performers over Christmas.

In a deeply embarrassing move, the high street giant was forced to release its third-quarter results this evening – instead of early tomorrow – after key figures were leaked to the press.

Marc Bolland, the chief executive of M&S since 2010, said he had never witnessed such an "incident", adding: "It's very unfortunate. I don't want to joke about it." He admitted its performance was "not yet satisfactory" but blamed the sharp fall in its clothing sales on its decision to avoid getting sucked into the fierce discounting across the high street before Christmas.

The retailer's general merchandise sales at stores open at least a year tumbled by 3.8 per cent over the 13 weeks to 29 December, marking the sixth successive quarter of falling clothing and homewares sales at M&S. Its performance was significantly worse than rivals, Next and John Lewis, and will pile the pressure on Mr Bolland, who also unveiled a decline in half-year profits in November.

The general merchandise performance was worse than consensus City forecasts of a 1.5 per cent fall and even missed the bottom of analyst ranges of 3.5 per cent lower.

However, M&S's food business again delivered positive sales growth, and there was no profit warning. It maintained guidance on margins to be up to 0.25 per cent higher this year.

Mr Bolland said it had decided to "protect" profit margins by running 7 per cent less promotions and selling more clothing at full price. He added the market had been "highly promotional" before Christmas, citing hefty discounts of up to 70 per cent at some chains such as Gap. He said: "We did not promote as much as the market out there," adding that it also had less stock coming its Christmas clearance sale.

Food, which accounts for half of the group's revenues, delivered sales up by 0.3 per cent, although this marked a slowdown on previous quarters this year. Mr Bolland said: "Our food business had record sales over the key Christmas period." He said it delivered record food sales of £330m over the two key trading weeks before Christmas, citing barnstorming sales of chocolate and fresh turkeys.

Total UK sales rose by 0.3 per cent while group revenues, including overseas, were up by 0.6 per cent.

But Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec, said: "Food has not saved the day for M&S. General merchandise has some significant challenges, in our view, and the Q3 result marks an underlying deterioration on Q2 – so if anything it appears this division is getting worse."

Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

£475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

Business Analyst - Banking - Scotland - £380-£480

£380 - £480 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - Edinburgh - £380 - ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn