Fashion group Alexon has said that it expects full-year operating profit to exceed management expectations after a robust performance in December.

The group, which includes brands such as Dash, Eastex, Ann Harvey and Bay Trading, said December trading showed an improvement on the previous nine weeks.

In the twenty three weeks to January 3, like-for-like sales slumped 10.5 per cent. Gross margins were down 1 per cent as the retailer minimised excess stock ahead of the spring season and promotional activity increased in department stores.

The Alexon brands, which exclude Bay Trading, reported a 7.7 per cent like-for-like decline.

The retailer forecast that operating profit for the year to January 31 will be “slightly higher” than management expectations at the time of its interim management statement on November 24 and net cash for the group at the year end.

Terminal stock levels are “lower than last year” said the retailer in its trading update and there has been a “pleasing reaction to the early phases of new spring merchandise” for Bay Trading and Ann Harvey.

Alexon added: “These are the brands where there has been an opportunity for the new management team to influence the product direction due to relatively shorter lead times. This is encouraging for the 2009 outlook, which we believe will remain challenging in wider economic terms.”

Chief executive Jane McNally joined the retailer in June and has overseen the implementation of the retailer's strategy to minimise excess stock, strengthen the management teams and improve profitability through clearer direction on brand and product design.