Marks and Spencer
Marks & Spencer’s Christmas trading beat City forecasts with a strong performance from its under-pressure clothing departmentGetty Images

Marks & Spencer's Christmas trading smashed City forecasts led by a strong performance from its under-pressure clothing department.

Same store sales at its fashion and homeware department lifted 2.3% in the 13 weeks to the end of December, well above expectations of a 0.5% rise. Although, the firm added trading was boosted by the addition of five extra shopping days this year.

It added group like-for-like sales rose 1.3%, while food sales, which has been the strongest performing part of the business for years, grew by 0.6%.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: "I am pleased with the customer response we have seen to the changes we are making in line with our plan for the business.

"In clothing and home, better ranges, better availability and better prices helped to improve our performance in a difficult marketplace."

However, Rowe warned that the background of consumer confidence this year was "uncertain".

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: "We would expect the market to respond warmly to this update from M&S."

In November Rowe, who replaced former boss Marc Bolland in April, announced the retailer would close 30 UK clothing and homeware shops and convert dozens more into food stores.

His turnaround plans will also see the group open 200 new Simply Food stores as it shifts away from disappointing fashion sales.

Marks & Spencer also plans to close loss-making shops in 10 international markets, including China and France.

Last week fashion chain rival Next reported that its full-price sales fell by 0.4% in the 54 days to 24 December, and adjusted annual profits to the lower end of expectations.

It said tighter household budgets would make retailing "challenging", adding that the falling pound meant it was likely to raise prices this year.