Like-for-like food sales at British high street retailer Marks & Spencer have risen 2.1% for the 16 weeks to 20 January, showing some improvement on last year.

General sales have fallen a further 9.6% like-for-like however, confirming the worst expectations of critics and forcing further re-evaluation of the store’s clothing, gift, and home furnishings operations.

Luc Vandevelde, chairman and group CEO, admitted he was “under no illusion” that the clothing range must be improved if sales are ever to increase.

“We did not achieve the results I was looking for over the Christmas period,” he revealed, adding meanwhile that margins had improved and the group’s buying was cost effective.