Online and group sales rose in the fourth quarter of 2008 for retail giant Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose, the chairman announced today. The results, which did see some sales drops, were better than expected and have seen the share price of the retailer rise by nine per cent.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced its fourth quarter trading statement for 2008/2009 this morning. Group sales were up by 1.9 per cent and its growing online business reported an increase in sales of 20 per cent.

Chairman of the company Sir Stuart Rose said, "We have made progress against the key priorities set out at the interim results in November." He said the company has been managing its costs and cash flow. Speaking of the current economic climate he said, "While the outlook remains uncertain, we are confident that we are doing the right things for our customers and for our business."

M&S began the year by announcing 1,200 job cuts and its intention to close 27 stores. Like for like sales at M&S were down 3.7 per cent and general merchandise was down 4.2 per cent. Like for like is considered the most important measure as this does not include new store openings or store closures.

M&S has been on a rapid programme of IT investment, last year it relaunched the M&S online store and in 2007 it invested in a widespread radio frequency ID (RFID) programme. These are part of a three year £405 million technology overhaul plan. M&S is introducing new point-of-sale systems and 2000 new tills as part of this plan. Earlier this year the retailer extended its contract with Fujitsu Services to prove IT support to the 600 M&S stores. Damone Quigley head of infrastructure for M&S said they expect Fujitsu to identify cost savings.

Computacenter has also recently joined the M&S IT inventory providing full operational support to the head offices.