Tighter consumer spending hit Marks & Spencer’s food sales significantly during the last quarter of the 2008/09 financial year, a trading statement has revealed.

In the 13 weeks to 27 September, UK like for like food sales fell 5.9%, while general merchandise sales fell by 6.4%.

Many supermarkets have slashed the prices of key food products over recent weeks in an attempt to keep up with the budget retailers and while M&S has also offered a number of promotions to try and tempt cash-strapped consumers, it is clear that confidence remains fragile.

“Consumers are increasingly cautious about their budgets,” M&S chairman, Sir Stuart Rose said. “We have responded by offering our customers better value and more promotions across the business, while at the same time tightly controlling our costs.

“In Food, we are committed to giving our customers outstanding product while implementing a range of initiatives to improve value, innovation and availability,” he added.

Marks and Spencer Group Quarter 2 Trading Statement 2008/09 (13 Weeks to 27 September 2008)
• Group sales up 0.4%
• UK sales down 1.6%: General Merchandise -2.9% (Clothing -3.5%; Home +2.9% ); Food -0.5%
• UK like for like sales down 6.1%: General Merchandise -6.4%; Food -5.9%
• Online Sales up 34%
• International sales up 24.2%