Shares in Marks & Spencer Group (LON:MKS) have jumped more than one percent in London this morning, outperforming the broader London market, as the company delivered a long-awaited rise in clothing sales. The news is a boost for chief executive Steve Rowe who has been trying to turn around the retailer’s fortunes by closing stores and restructuring the group’s management.
As of 08:59 GMT, Marks & Spencer’s share price had added 1.62 percent to 345.90p, outperforming the FTSE 100 which has slipped marginally into the red and is currently 0.28 percent worse off at 7,269.72 points. The group’s shares have lost just under a fifth of their value over the past year, as compared with about a 23-percent rise in the blue-chip index.
Marks & Spencer announced in a statement this morning that its group sales had surged 4.3 percent in the 13 weeks to December 31. The company further reported that its like-for-like clothing sales had gained 2.3 percent during the reported period. The Telegraph notes in its coverage of the news that the rise had surpassed the most optimistic analyst expectations of only a marginal 0.5-percent uplift, and marked only the second time in 23 quarters the retailer has grown sales in that part of its business.
Chief executive Steve Rowe, who took the reins at the high street retailer last year, attributed the upbeat numbers to better availability and better prices, as well to the company’s move to substantially reduce discounting, including over Black Friday.
Rowe, however, cautioned that the company’s fourth-quarter sales will be adversely affected by sale timing and a later Easter, while reassuring investors that the group’s full-year guidance remained unchanged.
The Financial Times quoted Jamie Merriman, an analyst at Bernstein, as commenting that investors “will be encouraged by management’s positive tone and continued commitment to reduce promotional levels”.