High Street woe hits M&S

Q1 figures show UK like-for-likes, general merchandise and food sales down.
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After revealing back in May that its annual profits had topped £1 billion for the first time in a decade, Marks & Spencer has been bought back down to earth this morning, as the continued gloom on the High Street hit its Q1 performance.

For the 13 weeks ending June 28th, the chain saw UK like-for-like sales down by 5.3 per cent, sales of general merchandise slip by 6.2 per cent and food down 4.5 per cent.

The results caused shares in M&S to tumble.

Chairman Sir Stuart Rose said that consumer confidence had "deteriorated markedly and market conditions have become more challenging" since M&S reported its preliminary results in May.

"General merchandise has been affected by the current market conditions, but we are holding market share in clothing, and home continues to outperform," he commented. "Stock levels have been well controlled and our summer sale will start at the same time as last year.

"We expect market conditions to continue to remain difficult and we are managing our business accordingly. As we said in May, tight stock control and management costs are a priority. We continue to expect gains in bought-in-margin, although the outturn on gross margin is difficult to predict and will depend on market conditions and our trading stance. Our guidance on operating costs remains unchanged.

"Four years ago, M&S was a weak business in a strong market. Today, we are a strong business in a weak market. Our work to reposition the business in terms of product and values, service and store environment, coupled with our strong balance sheet and cash flows, places us well for the short-term while enabling us to continue to invest for the future."

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