A bastion of the U.K. high street, Marks & Spencer, reported a drop in non-food sales in the first three months of the year, numbers which are likely to inflame shareholder concerns over the company's management and retail strategy.
Trade figures for the quarter, showed a decline of 3.8 percent for general merchandise, which includes clothing, footwear and homeware, but excludes food.
Analysts had forecast a decline of 4 to 6 percent, according to a company poll, after a 3.8 percent fall in the previous quarter when M&S moved to protect profit margins by offering fewer discounts. It was the seventh consecutive quarterly fall in general merchandise sales.
The retailer however posted a 4 percent rise in food sales from a year ago, better than a range of forecasts of 1.9 to 3.5 percent.
The company said it was "cautious" over the outlook for the year ahead and said in general merchandising it faced "difficult trading conditions."
Marks & Spencer shares rose 4 percent in morning trade on Thursday.