Marks & Spencer see sales drop in clothing and home division

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M&S optimistic over turnaround plan despite decline in sales

Sales at Marks and Spencer's clothing and home division fell at a slower rate than before in the first quarter, the retailer has said.

However, like-for-like food sales dipped by 0.1% - which was worse than expected - and without Easter falling in April, comparable revenue across the United Kingdom business would have declined further.

LFL growth 0.7% and general merchandise by around 0.6%.

Overall Marks & Spencer achieved group revenue of just over £2.5bn (up 2.6% year-on-year) with Food sales up 4.5% year-on-year (-0.5% like-for-like) at £1.4bn and worldwide sales up 3.8% at £272.3m.

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But Vinay Sharma, a senior trader at ayondo markets, said: "Investors are clearly disappointed in today's figures and despite chief executive Steve Rowe's assurances that they "remain on track", we are seeing a lot more sellers in the stock than buyers this morning". On Tuesday he was due to face investors at the company's annual meeting, held at Wembley Stadium.

There was a need for "stronger promotions", he said, adding that the performance of stores was also being affected by expansion as new M&S food outlets sprung up on their doorstep.

Total sales dipped 0.5 per cent in the same period to £825.1 million, but the retailer hailed a seven per cent growth in full-price clothing sales as it moves away from discounting models.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: "Trading in the first quarter was in line with our expectations and we are on track with the plan we announced past year".

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M&S's shares were marked down by more than 4% after the retailer revealed food sales in stores open more than one year had fallen over the last three months. Consistent with the plans we set out in November 2016, we have now closed 28 of 53 stores in the owned markets we are exiting.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb pointed out that ahead of the update "the jungle drums were beating that Clothing LFL sales were likely to be "only" about 1.0% down and, so, despite the desperately soft comps, the bulls will be pleased to see that Clothing and Home sales were indeed only 1.2% down" - though adjusting for Easter the fall was 1.8%.

Earlier this month, M&S brought back its £10 meal deal, which includes a main, side dish, dessert an a bottle of wine.

Its food halls also saw a better quarter, with same-store food sales 0.1% lower.

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