Marks and Spencer has reported a rise in clothing and homeware sales over the Christmas period for the first time in two years. Sales in the division rose 2.3% – well above expectations for about 0.5%. The company’s chief executive, Steve Rowe, said “better ranges, better availability and better prices” had helped sales to recover. But growth was helped by the timing of Christmas this year, which meant there were extra shopping days. Food sales were up by 0.6%. That compares with Tesco’s food sales growth of 1.3%, while Sainsbury’s food sales were down slightly. The company estimated that the timing of Christmas had added about 1.5% to the clothing & home sales growth and about 0.3% to food.