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M&S non-food sales hurt by new website

British retailer Marks & Spencer on Tuesday reported a 13th consecutive quarter of declines in underlying general merchandise sales as the company's new website took time to "settle in".

General merchandise sales, which include clothing, homeware and footwear, were down 1.5 percent at stores open over a year.

Analysts had expected a drop of 1.0 percent to 2.0 percent at shops open over a year, according to a company poll of 11 analysts

The new website is key to the company's transformation. The group warned in May that the new M&S.com site would take four to six months to settle in and, as a consequence, would have some impact on general merchandise performance in the first quarter.

Oli Scarff, Getty Images

"As previously indicated, we are now focused on optimizing the website commercially, with updates made on a regular basis. We have recently seen a gradual improvement in sales performance, despite a lower level of promotional activity," the group said in a statement. M&S.com sales fell 8.1 percent in the first quarter.

It added it expects to return to growth ahead of its peak trading period.

M&S kept its full-year guidance. Group sales were up 2.3 percent and food sales, which contribute over half of group sales, were up 1.7 percent on a like-for-like basis -- a nineteenth straight quarter of growth.

Analysts forecast first-quarter like-for-like food sales up 1.5-2.5 percent, with the consensus at 2.0 percent.

The group holds its annual shareholder meeting later on Tuesday.

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