Marks & Spencer (M&S) reported record food sales during the week before Christmas, up 17% on the same period in 2014.

It was an “excellent Christmas in food,” according to chief executive Marc Bolland, the highlight of which was “delivering record Christmas sales and strongly outperforming the market”.

This marked the end of an excellent third quarter for the company’s food business, which saw market sales up 3.7% and 0.4% like-for-like (LFL), said M&S.

Food has now delivered 25 consecutive quarters of LFL sales growth for M&S, but it was a tough festive trading period overall, during which LFL sales of general merchandise fell by 5.8%.

New chief executive

The group also announced that Bolland intends to retire in 2016 after six years as chief executive, to be succeeded by Steve Rowe. Rowe has been with M&S for over 25 years – he was previously in charge of food, was director of retail and e-commerce, and has been a board member since 2012.

Rowe said of the move: “It is a great privilege to be appointed CEO of Marks & Spencer and to have the opportunity to lead this unique company and all its people forward.”