Marks & Spencer clothing sales rise after four years ahead of release of controversial suede skirt

The high street stalwart said sales of clothing, shoes and homeware were up 0.7% in the 13 weeks to March 28

Marks & Spencer posted a rise in sales of clothing and home funishings in the three months to March 28, marking the first time in 15 quarters that it has not posted a loss.

The high street retailer said sales of general merchandise, which includes clothing, shoes and homeware, were up 0.7% on a like-for-like basis in the 13 weeks to March 28.

Sales of M&S food also rose 0.7% and total UK sales were up the same amount. Overall group sales climbed 1.9%.

Chief executive Marc Bolland may yet turn his tenure around after a disastrous Christmas. The positive outlook on the company has been fuelled by celebrity endorsement and social media. Trend setters including Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo have been pictured wearing a suede ‘skirt of the season’, part of the Autograph collection.

M&S's suede skirt, part of the Autograph collection

"This is just the kind of buzz and energy that could see M&S return to fashion favour," Anusha Couttigane from Conlumino told RetailWeek. "[It] makes a welcome change from the story to which we are more accustomed – that of outperformance in food compensating for declines in clothing.”

The results follow a disastrous festive season for the retailer, which saw general merchandise slump 5.8% and major problems at its state-of-the-art distribution centre in Castle Donington delaying customer orders.

The performance had some investors questioning whether the long and costly process of updating and upgrading M&S' infrastructure had been worth it and cast doubt on Bolland's leadership.

But today the Dutchman said that the chain had delivered on its goals to boost margins, which the company said would likely rise 150 to 200 basis points.

“We continued to deliver on general merchandise gross margin, and are pleased that we have achieved this whilst also improving general merchandise sales,” he said.