The impact of being pre-Easter has reduced this quarter's reported sales by an estimated 1.7 per cent for food, giving an underlying performance of a 6.3 per cent rise in food sales.

Food has outperformed the market over the quarter. M&S's new product launches, together with a focus on key events such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, have been well received by customers.

Roger Holmes, chief executive for the retailer, said: 'Our general merchandise sales have been affected by weakening market conditions during the last quarter but performance for the year overall has been satisfactory. In food, we have again delivered strong quarterly sales, outperforming the market.' Forward-looking statements from the store are subject to various risks and uncertainties. These include failure by M&S to predict customer preferences, decline in the demand for products offered by the store, competitive influences, changes in levels of store traffic or consumer spending habits, effectiveness of M&S's brand awareness and marketing programmes and general economic conditions.