The Q1 figures, which include the Easter trading period, have been described as "disappointing" by financial analysts, who said the retailer's food sales are now falling behind rivals such as Tesco and Sainsbury's. "Overall, the sales numbers are modestly below expectations but the commentary is reasonably encouraging with new Simply Food stores performing well and the increase in full price clothing sales sounding positive for profit implications".
Total sales dipped 0.5 per cent in the same period to £825.1 million, but the retailer hailed a seven per cent growth in full-price clothing sales as it moves away from discounting models.
The drop in clothing sales marks the second consecutive quarter that MandS has failed to meet low expectations, and raises questions over whether Rowe's plan to close 30 United Kingdom stores will be drastic enough in the face of a long-term sales decline.
"In our Food business, we delivered strong growth from new Simply Food openings, and are prioritising better ranging and stronger promotions". Food revenues grew 4.5 percent on a reported basis, but fell 0.1 percent on like-for-like basis.
Despite the slower-than-expected start to the year, M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe said the company remained on track to recovery.
Global revenue increased 3.8% (down 4.0% in constant currency).
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