British retailer Marks & Spencer have missed forecasts for underlying fourth quarter sales.

It said that growth in food sales failed to offset a weaker outcome in general merchandise. But M&S said it would meet expectations for 2011/12 profit.

The company said sales at stores open over a year fell 0.7% in the 13 weeks to March 31, its fiscal fourth quarter.

That compared with analyst forecasts of a rise of 0.4-1.6%.

M&S said that its international markets in India, China and the Gulf continued to trade strongly and its newly opened flagship store in Paris performed ahead of expectations.

But it added that its international sales performance was impacted by continued economic weakness in Ireland and Greece.

M&S said the fourth quarter outcome included a 2.8% fall in general merchandise like-for-like sales and a 1% rise in food sales. This compares to forecasts of increases of 0.2% and 1.6% respectively. Total group sales rose 0.8%.

Many UK retailers are still struggling as consumers grapple with inflation, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and worry about job security and a stagnant housing market. But it has, however, performed better than most as its older and more affluent customers have been less impacted by the economic downturn.