Marks & Spencer looks a Christmas winner as sales increase helped by festive food demand

Marks & Spencer saw high demand for Christmas food ranges (M&S )
Marks & Spencer saw high demand for Christmas food ranges (M&S )

Marks & Spencer has cemented its status as a “Christmas winner", with the High Street stalwart reporting higher sales and bumper demand for festive food and party clothes.

The food and clothing retailer, which returned to the FTSE 100 in August for the first time since 2019, saw total sales growth of 7.2% to £3.9 billion in the 13 weeks to December 30.

The firm, which had festive adverts featuring stars such as Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Zawe Ashton and Hannah Waddingham, reported like for like food sales up 9.9% and clothing and homeware 4.8% higher. That was ahead of analyst expectations.

Marks & Spencer said December 22 was its biggest ever day for food with sales of over £90 million, and cranberry sauce purchases were 17%.

Meanwhile more than 150,000 sequin products were shifted, including 23,000 black sparkly jumpers.

Stuart Machin, who was promoted to chief executive in May 2022 said: “We enter 2024 with a spring in our step, but clear eyed on the near-term challenges. We are determined to deliver our objective of driving 1% growth in market share in both businesses and to up the pace of our transformation."

In its outlook the company said expectations for economic growth remain uncertain, with consumer and geopolitical risks.

It pointed to facing additional cost increases from higher than anticipated wage and business rates related cost inflation.

However Marks & Spencer said: "Nevertheless, the strong Christmas trading performance provides confidence that the results for the year will be consistent with market expectations."

The firm said with improved trading performance and the resultant increase in the share price, over 9,200 colleagues - the majority being customer service assistants - are expected to benefit from the vesting of the 2020 employee share save scheme on 1 February 2024.  A team member saving a typical £150 per month in the scheme will gain over £10,000.

Machin has been working on a turnaround plan at the business to retain and attract shoppers, including price cuts on over 200 food products in October, and boosting its womenswear offering by selling more third party brands such as Sweaty Betty.

Plans were outlined in October 2022 to close 67 “lower productivity, full line stores” over five financial years, but during the same period it will invest in launching 104 more Simply Food sites.

Today's update is the latest in a string of High Street giants updating on recent performances.