Marks & Spencer has moved to play down reports in the UK that the retailer is demanding bigger price discounts from its suppliers.

A report in the Daily Mail said today (5 February) that the retail giant, which is battling falling sales, has "enraged" food suppliers with its demands.

The report claimed that M&S had met with its leading suppliers last week, including Northern Foods and Bakkavor, in a bid to reduce its purchasing costs.

A supplier in the report was quoted as saying that M&S is "the most brutal of the food retailers" it deals with.

However, M&S has moved to cool claims of tense relations with its suppliers. "We are absolutely not changing our payment terms. Ours are between five and 25 days whereas other large stores are between 30 and 60 days. We believe ours is amongst the best, if not the best. Our ambition is to continue growing our food business as best we can."

In January, M&S posted a 1.5% fall in food sales during the three months to 29 December after a "challenging" trading period in November and December.

Officials at Northern Foods, a key ready meals supplier to M&S, could not be reached for comment as just-food went to press.