RETAIL UPDATE: Sales fall for M&S

Bleak picture as group sales drop 1.2 per cent and UK sales slip 3.4 per cent in Q3 08/09.
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After Debenhams and Next reported their Christmas trading figures yesterday, today is the turn of Marks & Spencer - with the retailer revealing that group sales dropped 1.2 per cent for the 13 weeks to December 27th 2008.

Sales in the UK dropped by 3.4 per cent and within this general merchandise slipped by 5.5 per cent (clothing down 6.5 per cent and home up one per cent) and food dropped by 1.1 per cent.

UK like for like sales were down by 7.1 per cent, with general merchandise down 8.9 per cent and food down 5.2 per cent.

However, online sales grew by 29 per cent and international sales increased by 26.9 per cent.

The retailer also revealed that it is likely to close 27 stores, 25 of which are small underperforming Simply Food stores and two are small main chains stores. Around 780 jobs may be lost as a result of these proposals.

Head office isn't safe either, with the loss of up to 450 jobs being considered. This represents around 15 per cent of the head office headcount.

"We are aware that the proposed changes set out above will be difficult for those members of staff impacted, but given that we expect challenging economic conditions to continue for at least the next 12 months, we believe we are taking the right action to maintain the strength of our business," said Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S.

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