M&S has vastly improved its sales by improving product lines and maintaining its focus on the UK. The company was expected to post better sales - particularly for its non-food categories, which have recovered from terrible results last year. With food sales remaining strong, M&S seems to have made the first positive steps towards winning back customers.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has released trading figures showing like-for-like sales up 13% for the 12 weeks to September 28. This is far above what was expected and highlights the positive measures the company has taken to halt its decline.

Food has always been one of M&S' strong points, and the division continues to grow with like-for-like sales up by 6%. However, it is in the non-food areas that M&S has really needed to boost sales to deliver a strong proposition across its range. Finally, the company has been able to announce strong double-digit sales in these areas. Non-food sales, which include
clothing, gifts, footwear and home goods, have increased by 13.2% on a like-for-like basis.

This all points to continued recovery for the troubled retailer. M&S' past decline can be put down to an unfocused strategy and arrogance. It now appears to have made the first positive steps towards winning back customers.

In the past, the company has also been hampered by ambitious plans to expand overseas while its UK operations were in disarray. However, M&S has made the necessary commitment to focus on the UK. A new executive team, revamped non-food lines and divesture of overseas loss-making businesses have all been central to its recent success. Now, M&S needs to keep it up.

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