M&S misses LFL forecasts in third quarter

High Street giant Marks & Spencer has reported worse-than-expected sales figures for the key Christmas period in a trading update that was partially leaked the night before.

High Street giant Marks & Spencer has reported worse-than-expected sales figures for the key Christmas period in a trading update that was partially leaked the night before.

After like-for-like (LFL) sales data was leaked to Sky News wrongfully at around 20:00 on Wednesday evening - the update was scheduled for release on Thursday morning - the retailer was forced to rush out its figures and convene a management conference call, according to media reports.

For the group's third quarter, the 13-week period to December 29th 2012, group sales at a constant exchange rate grew by just 0.6%.

However, LFL sales in the UK dropped by 1.8%, worse than the 1.4% decline expected by Nomura, owing to weaker-than-forecast Food and General Merchandise (GM) performance.

Despite Food reporting record sales of nearly £330m in the two key Christmas trading weeks, outperforming the market by 4%, third-quarter Food LFL sales rose just 0.3%, lower than the +0.5% Nomura estimate.

GM LFL sales fell 3.8%, worse than the forecast decline of 3.5%.

Gloomy outlookThe company said that the pressure on consumers' disposable incomes is likely to continue in 2013.

"As a result we remain cautious about the outlook for the year ahead," the press release said.

While the firm said that its GM performance "is not yet satisfactory", Chief Executive Marc Bolland said that he is "confident that the steps being taken by the new management team will address this."

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