Festive sales cheer for Tesco as M&S reports another slump

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Pedestrians walk past a Marks & Spencer store on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, November 8, 2016.

We therefore do not see the newly reinstated dividend as at risk (though progression is uncertain.) True, the company with the biggest exposure to Britain's high street must pull off an even more finely tuned balancing act than rivals - with a mix of low-margin and full mark-up pricing.

Worldwide sales were down 9.8% to £309m.

M&S got a welcome publicity boost earlier this week when Meghan Markle, the USA fiancee of Britain's Prince Harry, was photographed wearing a 45 pound M&S jumper.

In the four weeks leading up to Christmas day, the UK's largest supermarket chain saw like-for-like sales rise 2.0% in the United Kingdom and Ireland compared to the same period in 2016.

He said that but for October's unseasonable mild weather, M&S would have had a positive sales performance for clothing.

But the impact of an unseasonal October resulted in an overall revenue decline. "We want our first price to be the right price".

But some analysts are still to be convinced.

But who managed to navigate the busy time of the year best?

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People walk past a branch of British retailer Marks and Spencer in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, April 20, 2017.

Meanwhile, UK like-for-like sales during the Christmas period rose by 1.9% and total sales was up by 2.1 per cent, driven by a strong grocery performance.

The declines reported were still not as steep as some feared after profit warnings from the likes of Debenhams, Moss Bros and Mothercare.

All three major retailers alluded to difficulties in the market and tough trading conditions, with Tesco speaking of "inflationary pressures" and M&S referring to "ongoing trading pressures".

The M&S update highlighted just how dependent clothing 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.

M&S said like-for-like revenues fell 1.4% in the 13 weeks to 30 December.

It said "ongoing under-performance" in its food arm saw sales fall 0.4%.

The retailer also said that it head improved customer service by opening more tills and improving stock availability.

Meanwhile Sainsbury's upgraded its full-year profit forecast on Tuesday following a record Christmas of a 1.1% increase in like-for-like sales, but it warned of a challenging market amid weaker sales at Argos.