LONDON – Group sales at Marks and Spencer Group plc rose 2.6 percent in the third quarter, the key holiday trading period, although chairman and chief executive Stuart Rose continued to warn of “challenging” times ahead.

M&S said general merchandise was the leading category, with sales rising 3.2 percent in the 13 weeks to Dec. 26. M&S reported only percentage figures.

Sales would have risen by another percentage point had the first day of the Christmas sale on Dec. 27 been included, M&S noted in a trading statement.

The company added that stock levels were better controlled than last year, with fewer items going into the sale, slated to end later this week.

“We had a good Christmas, continuing the improvements seen throughout 2009,” said Rose. “We expect the trading conditions over the coming year to remain challenging as a result of continuing economic uncertainty.”

For complete coverage, see Thursday’s WWD. 

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