By Ian McConnell

RETAILER Marks & Spencer yesterday flagged the detrimental impact of Brexit on its businesses in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, as it reported higher food sales but a tumble in clothing revenues amid coronavirus-related restrictions.

It flagged potential tariffs on part of its range exported to the European Union, and “very complex” administrative processes.

And it cited the possibility of the “effective UK-wide lockdown” lasting until Easter.

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M&S said food sales revenue in its UK operations in the 13 weeks to December 26 was £1.74 billion, up 2.2 per cent on the same period of last year and 2.6% higher on a like-for-like basis. However, revenue in its clothing and home departments over the quarter to December 26 was, at £787m, down 25.1% on the same period of last year.

Shares in M&S finished 3.45p or 2.44% lower at 137.9p in the wake of the trading statement.

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M&S said: “The free trade agreement with the EU means we will not incur tariffs on our core UK sales. However, potential tariffs on part of our range exported to the EU, together with very complex administrative processes, will significantly impact our businesses in Ireland, the Czech Republic and our franchise business in France which we are actively working to mitigate.”

It added: “The announcement of an effective UK-wide lockdown, potentially enduring until Easter, will impact store sales and we are continuing to actively manage our clothing and home stock and our store cost base accordingly.”

M&S noted the 25.1% fall in clothing and home revenue reflected “an in-store sales decline of 46.5%, partly offset by strong online sales growth of 47.5%”. It said: “The sales mix remained heavily biased to Covid-influenced product such as sleepwear and leisurewear.”

Flagging the strength of food sales, M&S declared: “During the four-week lead up to Christmas, customers responded to our innovative seasonal product.”