Marks & Spencer said it is rapidly pushing ahead with its turnaround plan after half-year sales slumped during a "challenging" period for its clothing and homeware business.

The high street retailer saw sales slide 2.1% to £4.86 million for the six months to September 28.

The company hailed the performance of its food business, which grew sales, but saw clothing and home sales dive on the back of buying and supply chain issues.

Clothing and homeware plunged 7.8% as like-for-like sales dropped 5.5% on the back of issues around product availability.

READ MORE: Profits fall at Marks & Spencer​

M&S said it had "poor availability on the most popular sizes and too much stock and markdown" on its clothing lines.

It added that it saw a sales uplift in October after taking action to improve availability and has had an "encouraging" relaunch of its Per Una sub-brand.

M&S also reported weaker-than-expected online sales, as digital revenues rose just 0.2% despite an 8% increase in website traffic.

Meanwhile, like-for-like food sales increased by 0.9% driven by an acceleration in the second quarter.

The company said it has benefited from price reductions on a range of core food products and almost halved its number of promotions.

Infographic: Marks and Spencer in Scotland

Nevertheless, this was not enough to stem falling profitability, as trading profits slid 17% to £176.5 million during the half-year.

M&S said it has closed 17 stores as part of its turnaround plan which it said will see the closure of 100 stores across the UK.

It said it made £75 million in cost savings during the period as a result.

The company also reduced its dividend by 40% to 3.9p, as it had previously indicated would happen as a result of the transformation programme.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said: "Our transformation plan is now running at a pace and scale not seen before at Marks & Spencer.

"For the first time we are beginning to see the potential from the far-reaching changes we are making."

During the period, M&S also completed its £750 million joint venture deal with Ocado Retail and said plans for M&S supply have been "progressing well".

Shopping centre owner Intu has revealed the number of shoppers heading to its sites has increased, although the amount of rent taken will be hit due to Arcadia and Monsoon reducing their bills through an insolvency process known as a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Executives said they were performing ahead of the industry at a time where retailers are struggling to win over customers.

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Footfall was up 1.2% in the three months to September 30, with £5 million of new rent coming in, although occupancy levels fell from 97% to 95.1% so far this year, with leases averaging 6.5 years versus 7.4 years in 2018.

Matthew Roberts, Intu chief executive, said: "In the last quarter, we have continued to face challenging market conditions along with the rest of the sector.

"In particular, CVAs were slightly worse than expected. In the face of these challenges, there is much that gives me confidence about Intu.

"Many of our top customers are global, well-capitalised businesses and, having visited 17 Intu centres in recent weeks, there is a very different feeling on the ground to the one we read about regularly.

"Our centres are busy with footfall and occupancy significantly above the industry benchmarks."

BMW has reported that net profit increased 11.5% from a year ago to €1.55 billion (£1.33 billion) in the third quarter.

The car maker said the figures were helped by a rejuvenated model line and the absence of last year's market disruptions due to troubles with diesel vehicles.

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Revenues grew 7.9% to €26.67 billion (£22.94 billion) and the company reaffirmed its profit targets for the year.

A key measure of profitability watched by investors, the operating margin, rose to 6.6% from 4.4% but still short of the company's long-term goal of 8-10%.

The Munich-based company cited sharp increases in sales of its X3 and X4 sport-utility vehicles during the first nine months.

Profits rose despite higher spending on new tech such as electric cars, a key challenge in the face of ongoing upheaval in the auto industry.

Car manufacturers are being pushed to develop zero-local-emission cars to meet tougher emissions standards in the European Union and China.

The company said it expected demand for electric cars to double by 2021 over 2019 and to grow by 30% a year until 2025.

BMW earnings took a hit in the third quarter of 2018 amid market disruptions due to other auto makers failing to get diesel cars certified in time under new emissions rules, leading to price and supply distortions.

The company held its number of workers level with last year at 135,524 and said it aimed to keep the headcount unchanged this year as well, although it continues to recruit skilled workers and IT specialists to work on digitalisation and self-driving and electric vehicles.