Retailer Marks & Spencer has reported a ninth consecutive quarterly fall in underlying sales of general merchandise, with its much vaunted new season clothing ranges only managing to slightly slow the rate of decline.
The 129-year-old group also posted a 9% fall in first-half profit - down for a third year in a row, though in line with expectations.
M&S said its overall expectations for the 2013-14 year were unchanged even though it remained cautious about the outlook given continued pressure on consumers' disposable incomes.
The retailer, which also sells homewares and food, said sales of non-food products, spanning clothing, footwear and homewares, at stores open over a year fell 1.3% in the 13 weeks to September 28.
That compared with analyst forecasts of down 0.4-2.5% and a first quarter decline of 1.6%.
Chief executive Marc Bolland, in the final year of a three-year, £2.3 billion investment drive to make M&S an international retailer connecting with customers through stores, the Internet and mobile devices, is pinning his hopes on a new clothing strategy based on more stylish and higher-quality garments.
Though the autumn/winter ranges - the first from a clothing team led by John Dixon, the former boss of M&S food - hit stores on July 25, the full launch, together with a high-profile advertising push featuring some of Britain's biggest female celebrities, did not kick off until September.
"Although only in store for three weeks of the half year, our autumn/winter collection has been well received by customers, and we have seen some early signs of improvement," said Bolland, CEO since 2010.
He has denied the autumn/winter ranges represent a make-or-break moment for his stewardship of the firm, whose shares have risen 27% this year on recovery hopes and bouts of takeover speculation, stressing that directionally it is on the right track now that decades of under-investment are being addressed.
M&S's food business, which contributes over half of group sales, is performing much better. Its sales on the same basis rose 3.2% - at the top end of analyst forecasts of a rise of 3.0-3.2%.
First-half profit before tax and one off items was £261.6m, in line with analysts' average forecast of £262m but down from £287.3m last year, on sales of £4.9 billion, up 4.3%.
It emerged last week that Bill Adderley, founder of homewares retailer Dunelm, had amassed a 3% stake in M&S, making him the firm's biggest private investor.
M&S said today that it will pay a maintained interim dividend of 6.2 pence.