By Maximilian Clarke

A focus on ‘new and traditional’ Christmas food products has helped Marks & Spencer deliver 4.5% growth in sales over the final quarter 2011- at a time when retailers continue to face the threat of administration.

And as the retailer continues to focus overseas for expansion, international sales were up 8.1%

“Marks & Spencer performed well in a challenging trading environment,” said Marc Bolland, group chief executive.

“Our Food business performed very strongly as customers enjoyed our new and traditional Christmas products. This unique offer, coupled with ourgreat deals, gave them more choice than ever before for a special Christmas at home.
Clothing sales were up 1.1% as we continued to invest in offering our customers even better value. Customers continued to recognise our leading quality, resulting in our biggest ever quarter in kidswear.

“In Clothing our focus was on offering our customers real value at a time when they're managing their budgets carefully,” continued Bolland. “Our trading strategy worked well, delivering a record performance in many categories including menswear and sleepwear.”

Home sales were down 13.3%, primarily impacted by our decision to exit technology. Our key focus departments performed well, and the planned roll-out of new ranges and store layout later this year will provide a step change in our Home offer.

Food sales were up 4.5%, with customers choosing to protect their spending on festive food, despite the pressure on their disposable incomes. We offered an exciting range of seasonal products with more choice than ever before, introducing 600 new lines, including our best selling party food and dessert ranges.

Direct delivered a strong performance with sales up 22.4%. We made it even more convenient for our customers to shop with us through the extension of the next day delivery deadline and the launch of our Christmas Food to Order service on-line, which contributed to a 12% increase in orders.

International sales were up 8.1%, reflecting continued growth in the priority markets of India and Shanghai, as well as in our franchise business. We had a very good start to our newly opened flagship store in Paris.

Bolland concluded: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees for their hard work in delivering a great Christmas for our customers.”

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