Food sales helped High Street stalwart Marks & Spencer report Christmas figures that were better than executives had predicted, even though the results from other departments in the store proved to be somewhat disappointing.
An increased range of party nibbles helped the retailer record a 3% increase in food sales from Christmas 2010, but sales of clothes only increased by just over 1% and the shop’s home ware range struggled badly; sales in Christmas 2011 were almost 13.5% lower than in the same period the previous year.
Bosses at M&S were generally happy with their festive figures, admitting that they had anticipated the poor figures from the clothing department because of increasing competition from other High Street retailers. Debenhams in particular were marketing their clothing ranges very aggressively, offering large discounts on their own designs as well as brand names.
M&S was eventually forced to respond with its own pre-Christmas reduction in an effort to compete, but by then the damage had been done. Debenhams reported excellent figures, considering the financial crisis, with sales of clothing increasing by over 6% from 2010.
Marc Bolland, the current chief executive at Marks & Spencer, was trying to see the positive side of the company’s Christmas figures, adding that the food range at the store has remained a firm favourite with families looking to buy something different for a special occasion.
Bolland was also positive about the company’s prospects for the rest of 2012, anticipating that events such as the Queen’s Jubilee and this summer’s London Olympics would also produce a boost in food sales, as shoppers planned parties and splashed out on quality products rather than taking the budget option.