Shares in Marks and Spencer jumped by more than 11% this morning (31 March) after the UK retailer reported better-than-expected sales during its fourth quarter.

The upmarket grocer, which has seen its sales hit during the downturn, said UK like-for-like sales fell 4.2% during the 13 weeks to 28 March – against analysts’ forecasts of a fall of 6.5-7.5%.

M&S said food sales were down 3.7% on a like-for-like basis during the quarter. The performance contrasted favourably with M&S’s third quarter when UK like-for-like sales fell 7.1% and comparable food sales dropped 5.2%.

Outside the UK, M&S said sales jumped 23% as the company integrated its Czech and Greek businesses and opened new stores. In all, M&S said group sales rose 1.9% during the quarter.

“Foods performance improved again this quarter, with customers welcoming our increased innovation, better ranging and sharper values highlighted by our Wise Buys, Dine In and Family Favourite offers,” said M&S executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose.

Sir Stuart has faced pressure from investors over his position as executive chairman with some calling for the appointment of an independent chairman.

Shares in M&S were up 11.44% at 294.75p at 09:32 BST this morning.

The retailer will issue its full-year figures on 19 May.