Tesco and M&S continue strong Christmas

Marks & Spencer has revealed a return to sales growth in its embattled clothing arm for the first time in almost two years thanks to an overhaul of its ranges and the timing of Christmas.

The retailer said like-for-like clothing sales were up by 2.3% in the 13 weeks to 31 December.

It was the first time that the retailer had increased third-quarter underlying sales for the division since 2010-11 and the first quarterly rise since 2014-15.

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Morrisons also hailed its strongest festive sales growth for seven years, enjoying a 2.9% boost for the nine weeks up to January 1.

Chief executive, Steve Rowe, said clothing also benefited from better ranges, better availability and better prices, adding: "I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business".

Rowe said: "In clothing and home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a hard marketplace".

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Primark owner Associated British Foods said sales jumped a whopping 22% in the 16 weeks to January 7.

Tesco posted a 0.7 per cent rise in United Kingdom festive like-for-like sales yesterday. Fourth-quarter results will be hurt by the timing of sales and a later Easter holiday, it said.

John Ibbotson, director of consultancy, Retail Vision, described the performance as a "mini-victory", but argued that M&S has "too many stores in the wrong locations and huge competition on fashion and food, both online and in-store". "We expect the market to be challenging and consumer confidence to remain uncertain, but we are confident our plan is the right one". In the United Kingdom, we saw our eighth consecutive quarter of volume growth and delivered a third successful Christmas. Our fresh food ranges proved particularly popular, outperforming the market with great quality, innovative new products and even more affordable prices.

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