Marks and Spencer Suffers From Poor Clothes Sales

LONDON -- Marks & Spencer (LSE: MKS  )  has seen its shares drop 1.1% today after taking the unprecedented step of releasing its trading statement almost 12 hours ahead of schedule.

This came as a result of leaks to Sky News concerning figures of the FTSE 100 company's clothes and general merchandise business, which saw like-for-like U.K. sales fall 3.8% in the third quarter. Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland took the decision to put out the rest of the Q3 results earlier than scheduled.

There was good news, however, from the company's food business, which saw like-for-like U.K. sales increase 0.3% in the 13 weeks to Dec. 29, but the general merchandise's poor performance saw total like-for-like sales in the U.K. diminish 1.8%. Group sales were up 0.6%, while total U.K. sales increased 0.3% -- again, food outperformed with a 2.7% increase, and it was the general merchandise division that tempered the overall figure with a decline of 2.2%.

Bolland commented: "Our plan is to transform Marks & Spencer from a traditional U.K. retailer to an international multi-channel retailer. We are making good progress against this plan." Indeed, the company's international sales rose 4.1%, while multichannel sales increased 10.8% in the period. M&S launched free next-day store collection as part of a customer-service improvement drive, and its plans to launch the new e-commerce distribution center and the new Web platform are on track, aiming for April 2013 and spring 2014, respectively.

The stock's earlier 5% slump wrote off around 270 million pounds in value. However, the share price is slowly beginning to rebound. Whether the dip entices you to buy Marks & Spencer is, of course, up to you. 

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