M&S food sales dip over Christmas

Tesco is festive winner reporting record Christmas sales

The Morrisons result was better than the 1.9% United Kingdom growth reported by Tesco for the Christmas period, with chief executive Dave Lewis claiming that the chain had outperformed the market in fresh food following growth of 3.7%.

But shares in M&S fell as much as 7 percent on Thursday after it said comparable sales of clothing, homeware and food had all fallen in its fiscal third quarter, albeit not by as much as most analysts had forecast.

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

The performance of the fresh food category had been helped by a strong seasonal offer, said Tesco, including its "Festive 5" vegetable deal. Their signature luxury products are being undercut by bargain supermarkets at a fraction of the price.

General merchandise was also the Achilles heal for Sainsbury's as it reported a 1.1% rise in like-for-like sales over the 15 weeks to January 6. Echoing sentiment from peer Sainsbury's yesterday, Tesco announced weak general merchandise sales, with strength in food unable to lift wider United Kingdom sales figures to meet estimates. "Our trading momentum accelerated across the third quarter and into December, with the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day delivering record sales and volumes in the United Kingdom".

Our revenue grew both in-store and online over the weeks leading up to Christmas, however, the impact of an unseasonal October resulted in an overall revenue decline.

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Alex Williamson, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: "We are a business in transition; our focus is on driving profitability rather than chasing revenue at any cost".

Like-for-like sales at Marks & Spencer (M&S) were underwhelming, dropping by 0.4%.

He added that the group remains on track to meet full-year profit expectations.

Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, added: "In our food business, ongoing trading pressures continued in the lead-up to Christmas as consumer spending and choices reflected tighter budgets".

Retail's "Super Thursday" failed to identify an outright victor from the festive trading season as heavyweights Tesco (TSCO) and Marks & Spencer (MKS) were both given the cold shoulder by investors.

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