Irish arm of M&S drags sales down

Marks and Spencer’s underperforming Irish operations helped drag down the retail giant’s international division sales by 2% in the last quarter.

The latest trading update from the British high-street retail chain — which operates 21 shops in Ireland — shows that group sales rose by 0.8% in the fourth quarter of its latest financial year the three months to the end of March.

There was even better progress in the group’s core UK market, with year-on-year sales growth of 1.2% recorded.

However, despite double- digit growth in countries such as India and China, economic conditions in Europe and weakness in former strong markets such as Ireland dragged sales down by 2% in the non-UK division.

Group chief executive Marc Bollard said: “Our strategic international markets in India, China, and the Gulf continued to trade strongly and our newly opened flagship store in Paris performed ahead of expectations.

“However, international sales performance was impacted by continued macro-economic weakness in the Republic of Ireland and Greece, and the announced restructuring of our central European business.”

Despite pressure in parts of its international division, Mr Bolland said M&S has “continued to make progress in a challenging market”, and that management is confident of delivering full-year profits within expectations.

“While the short-term trading outlook continues to be challenging, we’re focused on investing in line with our plan and are making strong progress against our goal of becoming an international multi-channel retailer.”

M&S is to report its full-year financial results late next month.

Meanwhile, fashion label and retailer Burberry Group has reported an 18% year-on-year rise in second-half revenue — for the six months to the end of March — to £1.03bn (€1.25bn); boosted by its main markets of Britain, France, and China. Retail revenue, which represents over 7% of group sales, rose 23% to £743m.

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