LONDON — First-quarter U.K. sales at Britain’s Marks & Spencer Group climbed 1.9 percent, boosted by food which saw a 3.2 percent rise in a “difficult market.”
On a like-for-like basis, food sales were up 0.3 percent in the quarter ended June 27. The store reported percentages only on Tuesday, and is to announce its six-month results on Nov. 4.
In the quarter, general merchandise edged up 0.2 percent, dipping 0.4 percent on a like-for-like basis. The store said the category, which includes clothing and accessories, had returned to growth in the final quarter of last year.
The general merchandise category had fallen 2.5 percent in the 2014-15 fiscal year, with same-store sales down 3.1 percent.
First-quarter group sales, which includes the store’s international business, rose 1.3 percent on a reported basis and 1.8 percent on a constant currency one. M&S also saw 38.7 percent growth in its online store, after struggling with distribution issues following the launch.
“We continue to make progress against our key priorities. Our food business did very well in a difficult market. In general merchandise, sales were broadly level on last year and we are on track to deliver the planned increase in gross margin,” said Marc Bolland, the store’s chief executive. “M&S.com performance was very strong, with customers appreciating all the improvements to our Web site.”
He characterized the quarter as “challenging and promotional” for general merchandise, while noting the retailer remained on track to deliver its forecast improvement in gross margin.
International business showed modest growth on a constant currency basis, notwithstanding the ongoing challenging macro-economic environment, with key priority markets such as India and Hong Kong performing well.