M amp S clothing sales continue to struggle

Unseasonal autumn weather has been blamed for another drop in M&S clothing sales.

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By :  ,  Financial Analyst

Marks and Spencer's (M&S) clothing range continues to struggle after the company reported yet another drop in sales.

The retailer said in its latest trading update that general merchandise sales, clothing accounting for a large proportion, dropped by 5.8 per cent in the third quarter. It represented the 14th consecutive quarterly fall in clothing sales. The results added to a 2.7 per cent decline in like-for-like online sales, despite M&S investing in revamping its website.

When it came to the slump in general merchandise sales, Marc Bolland, M&S chief executive, highlighted the unseasonably warm weather over the autumn months. Last year was recently named the hottest year on record, with only 1998 coming close to reaching the same heights as the past 12 months.

This had seen the likes of October and November being much warmer than many would have expected and this impacted on the retail sector. Mr Bolland explained that this milder weather had a negative effect on the company's performance during these months as it was unable to sell its winter range in the quantities it would have hoped for.

Despite the disappointment in the general merchandise sector, M&S maintained that it had enjoyed a "very good Christmas in food". Mr Bolland stated that the company had delivered "record Christmas sales, strongly outperforming the market". However, this opinion was not echoed by analysts.

Neil Saunders, managing director at analyst firm Conlumino, said: "When it last updated the market back in November, M&S's numbers were showing some signs of improvement. Unfortunately, this dismal set of figures indicates this momentum has not been carried through into the Christmas quarter."

The analyst added that M&S has failed to capitalise on a strong performance during Christmas 2013 where it posted positive trading numbers.

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