No 'Magic and Sparkle' for M&S as retailer expected to reveal another fall in clothing sales

Chief executive Marc Bolland has yet to report a successful Christmas sales period

Marks and Spencer found itself among the worst fallers on the FTSE 100 as investors await the latest set of results from the high street institution.

Chief executive Marc Bolland has yet to report a successful Christmas sales period since he joined the retail stalwart more than three years ago, and M&S is expected to reveal another fall in clothing sales later this week.

With brokers Citigroup and Bernstein today cutting their price targets on the stock, to 510p from 575p and 400p from 420p respectively, the shares fell 8p, or 1.8%, to 436p.

Non-food sales are expected to be down at least 0.5 per cent, with some analysts suggesting it could be as bad as 1.5%. The company’s shares have bounced up and down over the last few days, with some analysts suggesting that if sales had been particularly bad, M&S would have issued a profit warning by now.

However, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb suggested: “Poor old Marks & Spencer has always been a bit backward in coming forward when it comes to updating the market on its performance, so the fact that it has not yet brought forward its planned update from Thursday doesn’t necessarily imply that everything is fine on the profit front, even though expectations are low and reducing.”

M&S, which revived its 'Magic and Sparkle' theme for its Christmas ad campaign, has struggled with clothes sales, and Thursday’s update will be a test of Bolland’s turnaround plans after a major overhaul of the womenswear management last year.

Last week, high-street rival Next recorded its best Christmas results since before the recession despite refusing to begin discounting before Boxing Day. In contrast M&S launched a 30% sale on all non-food items a week before Christmas in a possible sign that it was having a difficult time.

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