High street giant Marks & Spencer has said that it overcame the severe weather over Christmas after recording its biggest ever day in food sales.
The retailer said big-impact promotions helped food sales achieve a record of more than £50 million on December 23, while UK like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to January 1 grew at a better-than-expected 2.8%.
M&S enjoyed a good run in 2010, with like-for-like sales consistently beating expectations and profits in the first half of the financial year up 17% at £348.6 million.
The latest figures reflect chief executive Marc Bolland’s first Christmas with the company, and the first trading update since he unveiled his three-year plan.
M&S said UK food sales grew 1.8% in the third quarter, while general merchandise, which includes clothing, rose by 3.8%. The retailer increased its market share in food to 3.9%, according to researcher Kantar, as the firm launched more than 600 new products during the quarter.
M&S Food was also promoted in a series of new ads over the festive season starring actress Caroline Quentin, who is seen hosting a Christmas party.
Mr Bolland said: “Marks & Spencer traded well through the important Christmas period despite the severe weather as customers continued to return to M&S quality. We delivered a great Christmas for our customers, from our stylish occasionwear to our innovative festive food.”
M&S said it was pleased with its performance but pointed out that the five sale days after Christmas included in the latest figures were not included in the third quarter period last year.
In food, deals-of-the-week promotions and half-price champagne were popular and the company sold a record 1.9 million turkeys in the period, up 10% on last year, while salmon and prawns were up 17%. The company does expect food price inflation of around 1% to 2% in the final quarter of the financial year, but said it was focused on offering competitive pricing.
M&S said that, in clothing, customers bought up seasonal items such as Fair Isle knitwear and thermals, and 600,000 cashmere products worth £69 or more were sold in the period – up 10% on last year. Mr Bolland said the company was witnessing a “return to quality”, with customers willing to pay more for better-quality clothing.