High street giant Marks and Spencer on Tuesday posted sluggish sales growth amid weak consumer spending and economic uncertainty despite a solid performance from its David Beckham-backed children's clothing range.

Britain's biggest apparel retailer said fourth quarter general merchandise sales slipped almost two per cent from the year-ago period although it noted that Easter did not fall in the quarter this year unlike last.

It said total like-for-like sales in the 11 weeks to March 29 rose one per cent with general merchandise like-for-like sales, which includes clothing and footwear, down 0.4 per cent from 2002.

M&S added sales of adult clothing rose by 0.8 per cent in the quarter while it maintained its clothing market share in a tough trading period, particularly in London.

Chief executive, Roger Holmes, said: "Our general merchandise sales have been affected by weakening market conditions during the last quarter but performance for the year overall has been satisfactory.

"In the current environment, we will manage our clothing stock commitments and operating costs more tightly."

He added: "The areas of success that we have achieved so far in David Beckham DB07 and schoolwear gives us an indication of what we need to do to build a better recovery."

Separately on Tuesday, FT Investor reported M&S is to carry out experimental "tagging" of its clothes in an attempt to improve availability for shoppers.

The report said a trial of the technology would start later this year and would be widened after Christmas - but only if it showed that it was helping the group achieve healthy efficiency savings.

Radio frequency identification technology will see tiny microchips planted in the tags - giving each garment a unique number and allowing the group to track it through the supply chain.