The greetings card specialist expects tough trading after increased losses in its past financial year but is confident improvements will deliver results.

Clintons’ parent company AG Retail Cards suffered a pre-tax loss of £19.4m in the year to January 28, versus a loss of £9.3m the previous year.

Sales slipped to £201.2m from £207.8m and like-for-likes declined 1%. Transactions were down 3.5%, the retailer’s report to Companies House showed.

However Clintons’ basket size rose by number of items and value by 3.1% and 2.6% respectively.

An impairment provision of £2.4m contributed to last year’s loss, when the national living wage and higher cost prices as a result of the fall of the value of sterling after the Brexit referendum also took a toll.

Clintons this month promoted Eddie Shepherd to chief executive, replacing Dominique Schurman who has returned to the US.

The retailer reported: “The company faced difficult market conditions during this period. Retail sales in the UK were increasing slowly by the end of the current year, however volumes are marginally down. This combined with the inflationary pressures presents a continuation of the difficult conditions.

“The directors are committed to the primary financial objective, which is the delivery of sustainable long-term profitability, however they recognise and accept that this objective is still some way off.”

“The average basket size continues to rise and that confirms that our 36 million customers see us as a great destination”

Tim Fairs, Clintons

Clintons marketing and ecommerce director Tim Fairs told Retail Week he was optimistic about the future as events such as the Brexit fallout pass their one-year anniversary.

He said: “The average basket size continues to rise and that confirms that our 36 million customers see us as a great destination.”

The retailer ended last year with 388 shops compared with 400 the previous year, and the majority have now been converted to its new format.

In the past three months about 15 shops have been closed as the retailer seeks to optimise its estate and a review of the portfolio by Knight Frank is ongoing.

Fairs said there are no plans for mass store closures.

Clintons’ Companies House report stated that its ultimate parent, US giant American Greetings, has confirmed it will “provide financial support to the company as required to enable it to meet its liabilities as they fall due”.