Marks & Spencer traded successfully through the important Christmas period. After adjusting for the timing of the sale, total UK sales were up over 3% and like for like sales were up nearly 2%, continuing the improving trend seen over the last four quarters. Customers responded positively to our quality and value in both Food and General Merchandise.
In General Merchandise we maintained our full price stance as planned, successfully trading through last yearвЂ™s two One Day Christmas Spectaculars. Like for like sales were up over 3% after adjusting for the timing of the sale. Stock levels were better controlled with less stock going into the sale than last year, which is expected to clear by the end of this week. Clothing market share was up 20 bps1. In Food, investment in innovation and better value for our customers continued to drive improved sales performance. Food sales have now returned to positive like for like growth. M&S Direct had another strong quarter with online sales up 32%.
Guidance on gross margin, operating costs and capital expenditure for the current financial year remains unchanged. As a result of the debt tender offer announced on 25 November 2009, we expect to report a one-off finance charge of approximately ВЈ14 million in the current financial year.
Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman said:
вЂњWe had a good Christmas, continuing the improvements seen throughout 2009.
вЂњIn Food, we had our biggest ever Christmas fortnight, with record one day sales of over ВЈ50m on 23 December. In General Merchandise, sales of knitwear, sleepwear and footwear were particularly strong. Over Christmas, customers bought more than 36 million mince pies, a million bottles of champagne and over 8 million jumpers and cardigans.
вЂњDespite the difficult weather conditions, our staff delivered a great Christmas for our customers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their hard work.
вЂњWe expect the trading conditions over the coming year to remain challenging as a result of continuing economic uncertainty. We believe however, that customers will continue to seek out real value and quality for which we are justly famous.вЂќ
Marks and Spencer Group plc will report its trading for the 13 weeks to 27 March on 8 April 2010.