Marks & Spencer clothing sales fall again

LONDON, April 11 Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:10am EDT

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - British retailer Marks & Spencer on Thursday posted a seventh consecutive quarterly fall in underlying general merchandise sales, though the outcome was a touch ahead of expectations.

Marks & Spencer, which has been the subject of takeover speculation, said sales of its non-food products, spanning clothing, footwear and homewares, at stores open over a year fell 3.8 percent in the 13 weeks to March 30, its fiscal fourth quarter.

That compared with analyst forecasts of a decline of 4-6 percent, according to a company poll of 11, and a 3.8 percent fall in the third quarter when M&S moved to protect profit margins by offering fewer discounts.

Food sales on the same basis rose 4.0 percent versus analyst forecasts of an increase of 1.9-3.5 percent and a third quarter rise of 0.3 percent.

Total UK like-for-like sales rose 0.6 percent.