British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) posted its first rise in underlying sales for over two years, but missed forecasts and joined rivals in warning that steps to cut government debt could hit spending this year.
The statement, which came as a survey showed British consumer confidence fell at its fastest rate in December for over a year, sent shares in the group down as much as 5.4 per cent in early trading. "We know that we've got some medicine coming," said Chairman Stuart Rose. "You'd be a fool if you didn't think it was going to get harder."
M&S, which is Britain's biggest clothing retailer and runs an upmarket food business, also said new CEO Marc Bolland who it poached in November, was unlikely to start until spring.
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