Marks and Spencer has posted a disappointing set of results for the third quarter as general merchandise sales fell for the tenth consecutive quarter.
M&S‘s GM sales – which fell 2.1 per cent across the 13 weeks to 28 December – have come under the microscope once again after a heavy investment into its ad campaign in October failed to halt the slide.
Marc Bolland, Chief Executive said the quarter performance was “below expectations” but praised its food business.
M&S‘s results are worse than rivals Debenham‘s which posted a 0.1 decline in LFL sales for the 17 weeks to 28 weeks to 28 December. Its results are in direct contrast to retailers such as John Lewis, Next and Rymans who shunned discounting this Christmas. Total sales fell 0.2 per cent for the 13 weeks to 28 December as the retailer was hit by pre-Christmas discounting.
It said in a statement that it had been a “challenging quarter” for the general merchandise market but had some cause for celebrations after it posted its first small market share growth in three years for its womenswear business. GM sales rose 1.5 per cent for the eight weeks to 24 December.
The retailer, which is set to unveil an improved dotcom site this Spring under the guidance of ecommerce boss Laura Wade-Gery, said its website enjoyed a sales surge of over 23 per cent for the eight weeks to 24 December.
Its food business remained its strongest offering and grew 1.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis in Q3 as M&S rose its full year gross margin in food from 50bps to 60bps.
Bryan Robert, Director of Retail Insights at Kantar Retail said it was yet another bout of deja-vu with the food side of the business making strides while its clothing range remains in a rut.
“Conversations with store managers have hinted at shortfalls in availability for strongly selling items, while merchandising veers from excellent to abysmal depending on which store you happen to visit,” he said.