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Marks & Spencer's clothing sales have finally risen

They're not up by much though, and total UK sales have fallen.

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Marks & Spencer chief exec Marc Bolland may feel like putting on an even snappier suit today, after the struggling high street stalwart finally reported rising clothing sales. He probably shouldn’t admire himself for too long though: the retailer’s underlying sales are still not shaping up.

M&S’ clothing revenues rose 0.6% on a like-for-like basis in the 13 weeks to March 29, with womenswear doing even better (although exactly how much better was conveniently left out). With all that PR being poured into the ‘Leading Ladies’ ad campaign you’d expect some results.

However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the retailer’s revenues. Underlying sales in the closely-watched general merchandise division, which includes clothing, fell 0.6%, the 11th straight quarter of decline. Total UK like-for-like sales were also down 0.2%.

M&S is also set to be overtaken by rival Next when it reports its profits in May. Next chief exec Lord Wolfson said yesterday he’s sharing his £4m bonus with staff (although he’s taking home the same again in pay and shares). Beleagured Bolland probably won’t get much of a bonus to share out, if these results are anything to go by, although the rise in clothing sales will at least buy him a bit of time (investors seem to agree too - share were up almost 3% in early trading).

It isn’t all bad news though: online sales were up 12.5%. International sales grew a healthy 4.7%, potentially vindicating the retailer’s latest ambitious global expansion plans.

Overseas sales still only account for a shade over 10% of M&S’ revenues though, so Bolland will need to boost British sales soon if he wants to stay in his job.

This article was first published on managementtoday.co.uk

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