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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 17:08 GMT
M&S chief hails sales 'recovery'
Elizabeth Jagger in M&S advert
Elizabeth Jagger has featured in the M&S ad campaigns
Marks and Spencer's boss Stuart Rose has at last acknowledged a "recovery" at the iconic chain after a sales surge in the lead up to Christmas.

The retailer said like-for-like sales - which ignore sales at new stores - in the October to December period were up 5.6% on the same period a year ago.

M&S, which is the UK's biggest seller of womenswear, has now snared a 10.5% share of the UK clothes market.

But its shares fell 4% with investors selling up after recent price rises.

The company's share price has risen steadily over the past 15 months as its fortunes have improved.

But Mr Rose had until now refused to use what he calls "the R-word".

But the M&S chief executive said: "We have now delivered growth on growth in all areas of our business, thus completing the first part of our recovery plan."

Demand for its food grew 3.6% on the same period a year ago, buoyed by a well-received advertising campaign with the voice-over "this is not just food, this is M&S food".

Famous faces

Much of M&S's recent success has been put down to its award-winning womenswear adverts, which feature 1960s fashion icon Twiggy and Elizabeth Jagger - daughter of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Like-for-like sales in general merchandise, which includes clothes, were up 7.1% in the three-month period.

M&S had a good Christmas
Stuart Rose, M&S chief executive

When new and expanded stores are considered, total sales growth was 9.2%.

M&S said its website attracted nine million customers in the period, with internet sales up 70%.

Overall third quarter growth was slower than the first and second quarters and Mr Rose said that the tough trading environment showed no sign of easing.

"M&S had a good Christmas," he said. "In the fourth quarter, we come up against significantly tougher comparatives, whilst facing a more challenging retail environment."

He told the BBC that he was a "bit worried" about overall High Street spending in the spring.

"Customers are tightening their belts," he said.

These concerns were evident in London on Tuesday, and M&S shares fell 2% after the company's earnings figures failed to beat analysts' estimates.

"The recovery remains on track, although the share price probably factors much of that in already," said Mark Charnock, an analyst at Investec Securities.

Seymour Pierce stockbrokers' retail expert Richard Ratner, said that M&S was "one of the clear winners this Christmas".

Marks and Spencer Share Price graph

Stuart Rose on the future for M&S

Have M&S cracked Christmas?
30 Nov 06 |  Business
Sales lift continues M&S revival
11 Jul 06 |  Business
M&S unveils sharp rise in profits
23 May 06 |  Business

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