UK retailer Marks and Spencer has booked a 1.8% increase in like-for-like food sales for the first quarter of its financial year.

CEO Marc Bolland, under fire for the performance of parts of M&S’s non-food business in the UK, said the retailer’s food arm had “another excellent quarter”.

He said: “Sales grew well ahead of the market, as customers chose us as the destination shop for special occasions as well as everyday quality they can trust. Our operational execution continues to improve, delivering further increases in availability.” Total food sales in the UK increased 4.5%.

Like-for-like sales of general merchandise in the UK were down 1.6%. In the first quarter of M&S’s last financial year, like-for-like GM sales dropped 6.8%.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said M&S’s total food sales were “impressive” and indicated the retailer had gained market share. “Inflation in the period was 1%, suggesting positive LFL volume growth, which is commendable against a sector which the British Retail Consortium reports experienced negative like-for-like sales over the last three months,” Black said. “We would assert that with 4.5% total sales growth M&S Food should have experienced a modicum of positive operational leverage. M&S Food is in good shape with strong in-store execution.”

In all, Black said M&S’s first-quarter trading update was “mixed in performance but broadly in-line with our expectations”.

Shares in M&S, which are up over 29% so far in 2013, dipped 1.76% after the update to 451.6p at 09:51 BST.