M&S shares tumble 7% after Christmas sales fall leaves sour taste

M&S shares tumble 7% after Christmas sales fall leaves sour taste

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Shares in M&S have fallen sharply after sales declines in both its clothing and food divisions left a sour taste in the mouth for investors.

The retailer was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, sliding by 7%, after another Christmas setback on a day when some of its rivals delivered better headline figures.

M&S blamed unseasonal autumn weather as clothing and homeware sales dropped by 2.8% in the 13 weeks to 30 December while food – until recently a stellar performer for the company – slid by 0.4%.

The setback for food looked especially disappointing given that the grocery sector overall was emerging as a winner from the festive period – with upmarket rival Waitrose and supermarket giant Tesco both enjoying strong food revenues.

In clothing, M&S again looked to have been outshone by Next, which last week reported an unexpected sales rise.

Marks’s figures were released at the same time as department store John Lewis, which reported a 3.1% rise in like-for-like sales for the six weeks to 30 December.

But Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the partnership which owns the chain as well as supermarket Waitrose, admitted that pressure on profit margins had intensified amid rising costs thanks to the pound’s weakness.

He warned that trading would remain “volatile” for the year ahead.

Elsewhere, House of Fraser said store sales in the six weeks to 23 December were down 2.9% and post-Christmas performance was “disappointing”.

It also said online sales were down by 7.5%. However, sales were up both in-store and online for Black Friday.

The update comes days after Sky News revealed that the Chinese-owned business was seeking rent reductions at a number of its 59 department stores.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said it had seen revenue grow both in-store and online in the weeks leading up to Christmas while it maintained its full-price stance in a “very promotional market” and did not participate in the Black Friday discount day.

“However, the impact of an unseasonal October resulted in an overall revenue decline,” said Mr Rowe. “As a result, we carried more stock into the December sale.”

In food, he said sales came under pressure in the lead-up to Christmas “as consumer spending and choices reflected tighter budgets”.

The M&S update revealed the latest in a long period of quarterly declines for its clothing and home division – one which was broken by a sales rise last Christmas.

It highlighted just how dependent fashion retailers can be on the weather, with milder autumns and winters tending to dampen demand for higher-price items such as warm coats and knitwear.

The update comes after rival Next said it had seen a better-than-expected Christmas sales performance, partly thanks to cold weather in December – but over a period that did not include October.

Thursday’s slew of trading updates also appeared to suggest a victory for Moz the Monster, John Lewis’s ad campaign star, over Paddington Bear – who featured in M&S’s marketing.

However the figures released by the two retailers were not directly comparable as John Lewis’s covered a shorter period.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the Marks & Spencer update was disappointing, particularly in food and online sales – the latter of which grew by what he described as a “pretty feeble” 3%.

“Sales in clothing and home actually fell by the biggest margin, but in a market which is shrinking, that’s more a reflection of wider economic trends,” he said.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “For M&S, the picture goes from bad to worse.

“Everyone seems to have abandoned their Simply Food stores for other supermarkets, removing the one real positive in the numbers over the last few years.”

(c) Sky News 2018: M&S shares tumble 7% after Christmas sales fall leaves sour taste