Marks and Spencer's sales kept positive by food

Roasted red onion and gruyere focaccia Marks and Spencer said its market share in food had grown 0.1 percentage points to 3.8%

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Marks and Spencer shares have risen 6% following better-than-expected figures, as rising food sales made up for falls in other areas.

Its like-for-like sales, which ignore new store openings, rose 0.1% in the 13 weeks to 2 April.

General merchandise fell 3.9%, but that was cancelled out by a 3.4% rise in food sales.

New chief executive Marc Bolland said it had been "a good fourth quarter in a challenging trading environment".

He added that although sales of clothing had fallen, the retailer's share of the market had risen.

Shares in the retailer were up 20.4 pence, or 6%, closing at 360.6p.

Marks and Spencer's sales had been widely expected to fall, following a succession of poor results from other retailers.

HMV, Next and Dixons Retail, which owns Currys, all said that trading had been difficult since the start of the year.

'Increasingly challenging'

M&S results for the full year to 2 April will be released on 24 May.

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It is clear that with many households facing the squeeze, the future is looking a lot tougher for retailers”

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The company's statement was cautious about the coming year, saying that pressure on consumers' budgets and rising commodity prices would make conditions "increasingly challenging".

Despite rising costs, M&S predicted that the profit it takes from every pound will be 0.25 percentage points higher than it was last year, although it did not specify how it plans to achieve the cost cutting that will require.

The company added that it was planning to increase its store space in the UK by about 2% and overseas by about 10%.

Last week, it announced plans to return to the French market, 10 years after closing its stores in Western Europe.

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