New figures suggest families are cutting back on even the basics of life - such as food.
It remains Britain's biggest clothing retailer and saw £10 billion in turnover and group sales rise in tough times. So what is wrong at M&S?
ITV News has reported on the dangers of faulty white goods still in homes despite recalls. Today, a faulty Bosch dishwasher caused a fire.
Marks and Spencer Group's quarterly trading statement showed that while its like-for-like UK food sales had risen by 4%, its general merchandise trading fell by almost as much:
- Group sales: +3.1%
- Total UK sales: +2.6%; Food: +6.3%; General merchandise: -2.2%
- Like for like UK sales: +0.6%; Food: +4.0%; General merchandise: -3.8%
- Multi-channel sales: +22.9%
- International sales: +7.0%
Marks and Spencer group reported a quarterly group sales rise of 3.1% today, which it said was its strongest sales growth in the last two years.
“We delivered an excellent result in Food, with performance well ahead of the market, as customers continued to trust us for provenance and quality. We are increasingly seen as the destination shop for special occasions," said Marc Bolland, chief executive.
The UK's hopes of avoiding a return to recession remain in the balance after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released mixed figures on manufacturing and exports.
Economists were cheered by a month-on-month improvement of 0.8% in factory output for February, reversing some of the 1.9% slide in January.
But separate figures from the ONS also showed a widening in the UK's trade deficit, largely due to a 1.1% fall in exports amid weaker demand from the beleaguered eurozone.
The UK will duck its third recession since the start of the financial crisis if GDP figures on 25th April avoid a second quarter in a row of contraction.
Easter distortions aside, the three-month average figures paint a positive picture and show the highest like-for-like sales increases since December 2009.
On the back of strong January and February results, this may be the beginning of a positive trend and will be welcomed by many retailers.
– David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG
With Easter falling early this year, the April sales comparatives will be negatively affected but it is hoped that the positive bounce of the first quarter of 2013 can continue to be felt across the country, buoyed by the opening of new shopping centres in cities such as Leeds.
This is a positive result, which rounds off a first quarter of cautious optimism for many retailers.
Easter fell in March this year but April in 2012, which helps this year's figures, especially for items which tend to sell well over the long weekend like food and homewares.
But even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact.
Snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster.
They brought mixed fortunes for different categories.
Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and ‘wintry' fare such as roasts and chocolate.
But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories.
– Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium
2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter. Getting a bit of sunshine, at long last, might help that along!"
According to the British Retail Consortium UK retail sales rose by 1.9% on a like-for-like basis from March 2012.
Growth is inflated by the timing of Easter, which fell in March this year but in April last year, but unseasonable weather hindered fashion categories.
Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 1.4% in March, total retail sales values grew 2.3% in real terms.
Online sales were up 6.6%.
Furniture retailer IKEA has stopped selling moose lasagne after traces of pork were found in a batch of the product.
Sales of the lasagne, of which about 10,000 tonnes has been produced by a Swedish supplier for IKEA, were stopped at its stores in 18 countries across Europe. It comes after tests by Belgian authorities last month revealed traces of pork.
In a statement IKEA said: "We received confirmation on Friday that one production series contained minced pork in very small quantity, roughly 1 percent."
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service's fire officer Stuart Granger said the blaze caused by a faulty dishwasher in a house today could have been "an absolute tragedy."
ITV News has reported on the dangers of faulty white goods in homes despite a national recall and a faulty Bosch dishwasher caused a fire in the early hours of this morning.
Mr Granger said: "They (faulty dishwashers) do pose quite a significant risk. We are starting to see quite a few of these fires occurring, maybe through better awareness, but even so they are occurring.
"If they (the people involved in today's fire) didn't have an escape plan and didn't have smoke detectors, there is a good chance we could be looking at an absolute tragedy in that house overnight."
– Bosch spokesperson
We have not stated that affected machines are OK to use unattended.
If customers have any questions there is an FAQ section on www.repairaction.co.uk.
The risk of potential fire is low and as customers use their machines very differently we would recommend them to use common sense, and in line with the appliance user guide/handbook.
If consumers believe that they have one of the affected models, they should call the helpline at 0800 0234881 or visit www.repairaction.co.uk to schedule a free repair.