Marks & Spencer has ended the long-running slump in sales at is clothing arm with its best Christmas performance for six years.
The retailer said like-for-like clothing sales were up by 2.3% in the 13 weeks to 31 December. This time last year clothing sales had slumped by nearly 6%.
The M&S chief executive, Steve Rowe, said “better ranges, better availability and better prices” had helped it improve its performance in a difficult marketplace.
To win back shoppers, Rowe has already cut clothing prices and promised to pay more attention to its most loyal group of shoppers – fiftysomething women he has dubbed “Mrs M&S”. He also slashed the number of promotions run by the store.
M&S’s clothing performance was bolstered by the inclusion of an extra five days in the trading period due to last year’s 53-week financial year and the retailer said without this benefit the like-for-like performance would have been 0.8%. Like-for-like sales at its food arm were up by 0.6% but without the extra days that figure was halved to 0.3%.
“Our food business continues to grow market share with customers recognising our product as special and different,” said Rowe.
The retailer ran a big-budget Christmas ad starring Janet McTeer as a glamorous “Mrs Claus” with a James Bond-style alter ego.
Last week’s dismal figures from Next, which wiped £2bn off retailers’ share prices on the day, fuelled fears that Christmas 2016 was a washout for clothing retailers as Britons cut spending on clothing.
But while the upset at Next capped a long period of financial outperformance, M&S’s progress follows five years of dire figures, with clothing sales down nearly by 6% over the last two Christmases.