Alexon Group, owner of womenswear retailers and brands including Ann Harvey and Kaliko, posted a 5.4% drop in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to June 12, partly driven by the volcanic ash cloud and the election.

The womenswear group said margins were squeezed by an increase in promotional activity but that trading had been broadly satisfactory since the year end, considering the backdrop of poor consumer confidence and continued economic uncertainty.

The fall in turnover followed a difficult year for Alexon, which recorded a pre-tax loss before exceptional items of £900,000 in the year to January 30, with like-for-like sales down 14.6%.

The group, which owns mainstream brands Eastex and Kaliko, casualwear brand Dash, plus-size offer Ann Harvey, petite-size brand Minuet and soft-tailoring-focused Alexon, attributed a drop in like-for-like sales at Ann Harvey to distribution issues caused by the volcanic ash cloud, which it said delayed key high summer stock deliveries.

It said Eastex’s performance dropped in the period running up to and immediately following the election, blaming low consumer confidence amongst Eastex’s older target market.

Alex & Co continued to underperform as expected and will be rebranded as Alexon from autumn 10. Product ranges will also be refreshed.

However, Alexon said Dash, Kaliko and Minuet all performed well - with Dash benefitting from a significant expansion in concession and store numbers. Kaliko and Minuet benefited from store and concession refits and refurbishments.

The group said that following its capital raising activities in March it remains focused on accelerating its turnaround strategy, which includes the restructuring of its store portfolio. It has so far agreed 40 store lease surrenders with negotiations with a other properties still in progress.  

Alexon said online investment had benefited the group, with all brands selling through their own sites. Total online sales were up 135% during the period.

Alexon said in a statement: “Looking ahead, the board anticipates that the current challenging environment will continue following the upcoming budget. However, subject to a return to normal trading patterns for Eastex over the coming months, we remain on track to deliver a good performance for the full year.”